Saturday, May 16, 2009

Telling Is SO Telling- Patricia Pacjac Carroll

A popular teaching in the writing world isShow don’t tell.

But what does that mean?
And how do we know if we’re telling or showing?
A good way is to read your chapter aloud. If it sounds like Aunt Frieda telling about her latest trip—you’re telling. It’s the Dragnet style of writing. Remember the old TV show where the guy says,

“Just the facts, Ma’am.”

You can find many telling troubles by hunting for was and were.

EX: She was tired. That’s telling.

Instead, write—She identified with the wilted daisy in the vase and drooped onto the couch. And you can see the character being tired. That’s showing.

There are sneakier ways for telling to creep into your writing. Back story is full of telling sentences. That’s why your story’s pace shudders to a screeching crawl. If it reads like a history lesson or travelogue, you are telling the reader what you want them to know instead of letting them discover along with your characters what they need to know.

Use dialogue to sprinkle facts in the story.

Another tell-tale sign is by using a word to name an emotion. So if you write—He was angry. You told me the guy is mad. Instead show me.

He clenched his fist

His face darkened.

Think about body language and show the reader your character’s emotions.

Parting thoughts

A last hint about telling. Be specific.

Telling is in the generalities.

A flower tells me what it is — a rose shows me the flower.

So let the show go on and write lively.

Check for the use of was or were, avoid large info dumps or back story, show the emotions, and be specific.

You’re writing will sparkle and your readers will thank you.

Patty is a member of the DFW Ready Writers and has written two books every aspiring author needs. Check out an interview with her on Lena Nelson Dooley's authors blog.

Learn more about Patty at her website:
or her Blog
There you can find out more information about ordering her CD books for writers.


Jackie Castle said...

Thanks for sharing this Patty! What great tips.

DFW Ready Writers said...

GREAT tips and advice on a difficult topic! I learned a ton!


Dawn "Chelle"