Write Wow!

Writing tips and techniques from the publisher of Swimming Kangaroo Books. Send your 3-page writing sample to be critiqued to dindy@swimmingkangaroo.com with the word "critique" in the subject heading. Your submission will be critiqued on the blog, but your name will not be used unless you give permission.

Monday, March 05, 2007

A Quick Show Don't Tell Demo

If you do not belong to any writing listservs, go onto Yahoo Groups and join some. Not only will you meet other writers but you will learn lots of terrific things from people who are going through the same things you are.

Just this weekend I came across a nifty little example of Show Don't Tell on Beth Wylde's Yahoo group.

This is an exchange off of Beth Wylde's Yahoo group and is an excellent example of Show Don't Tell:

One writer presented a passage.

Heat. Sweltering, sizzling, sultry. The kind that drenches the flesh in one solid slap. The kind that coats the body like a thick muggy blanket. The kind that can only be found in Texas in the summertime. “You have no idea how happy I am to be back.” The automatic doors to the airport swished open and closed behind Amy as she paused to luxuriate in the stagnant hot air. Thin wisps of air conditioning coaxed her to come back into the cool reprieve, but yawning out in front of her was the three digit humidity that most people considered nature’s saturating assault. Not Amy. Nature’s transgressions were ice, freezing rain, bitter winds, drifts of snow, all of which she loathed, all of which she had finally left behind. This time for good. Taking a long deep breath of torrid air she exhaled nosily and somewhat hedonistically. A few passer-bys glanced over, annoyed that she was partially blocking the doorway, an oversized suitcase by her side. Even so, their expressions didn't change much. Business meetings had to be attended, timetables had to be kept, and important schedules had to be adhered to. Not for Amy. The only schedule she was going to be a slave to was one called luxury, liberation and lust. And not necessarily in that order.
Arlene Cardoza posted a response illustrating why this was an example of Telling rather than Showing:

All of this was 'telling'. You 'told' what the weather was like, you 'told' what she thought of it and how she felt about it, you 'told' what other people did and thought and you 'told' what she planned to do. None of this was showing.

Showing would be:

Two steps out of the air-conditioned airport terminal Amy stopped. Dropping the handle to her oversized luggage she lifted both hands up, pulled her thick blond hair off her neck and faced the sun. "Oh yeah," she sighed deeply.

"Humid enough for you?" a heavy-set man frowned at her as he mopped his face with a white kerchief and made his way around her into the building.

"Never too humid," Amy grinned as she stepped off the curb, pulling her luggage toward the rental car parking lot.

The difference between the two passages? Notice all the action verbs in the second passage, and how the second passage incorporates another person. The reader feels more in the scene with the second passage than with the first-- with the first passage the words serve as a blockade for the reader and in the second passage the words invite the reader into the scene.

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