The race is about to begin. The competitors' bodies feel
taut and ready for action. Then one runner takes off a second before the gun
goes off. A collective groan comes from onlookers as the entire field is called
back to the starting line.
That looks like a great paragraph, doesn't it? Yet, it tells
about the action rather than shows it.
The runners take their position at the starting line,
muscles taut and ready for action. A second before the gun goes off, one
launches forward. A collective groan erupts from onlookers, and officials call
the entire field back to the starting line.
Showing versus telling gives many writers a headache. How do
we avoid the pitfalls associated with feeding readers information?
1. Use strong verbs. In the first
paragraph, we're told, "The race is
about to begin." The third paragraph starts off with, "The runners take their position at the starting
line, muscles taut and ready for action."
In the first example, the passive construction tells the
reader what is about to happen. The second example gives an action, using the
active verb, "take."
2. Use deep POV. Don't throw rocks at me. I'll define my
terms. In a nutshell, deep POV is short for deep point of view. When you're speaking
from one character's perspective, you not only see what they're seeing, but
also feeling what they're feeling.
Example 1: The competitors' bodies feel taut and ready for
Re-write: The runners take their position at the
starting line, muscles taut and ready for action.
In the re-write, you can see those muscles tensed. Words
like, feel, felt, emotion names, all tell the reader something about the
character. Describing their reactions - muscles taut, a raised eyebrow, a flick
of the hand eliminate the telling and show the reader what the character is
3. Observe real-life situations.
We've all seen someone's eyes flash, twinkle, tear up, narrow, close, grow
wide, etc. Be aware of how people communicate in non-verbal ways. It will
sharpen your writing skills.
Resources: Rivet Your
Readers With Deep Point of View by Jill Elizabeth Nelson
The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and
writers - have you used this fiction technique in your writing?
writers - do you have a favorite writing resource? Please share.
Readers: Who are some of your favorite authors, and why does
their work grab you?
Photo Credit: dimetri c