Children love Show and Tell day at school. They may take a treasured object to school to show to all their friends and then proceed to tell their classmates all about it. The event works because the eye can see and the ear can hear. But writing isn’t as dimensional as real life. So writers need to show the reader everything the reader cannot see. Easier said than done.
At the beginning of a writing career, one will hear “show don’t tell.” There are countless books written on the subject. But books are one dimensional unless the writer can show the difference and teach writers how to correct their writing style. Finding telling words is the easy part of the equation. It is finding the right words and phrases to replace telling words is the difficult part.
I came upon a book that gave me an idea of how to show more in my writing. The book, Showing And Telling In Fiction by Marcy Kennedy51t2wjq1glL._AC_US327_QL65_ is well worth reading and putting in your writer’s toolkit. One idea for how to find the right showing words Ms. Kennedy gives hit me particularly since we share an affinity for Star Trek. Fellow Trekkies all know about the Holodeck on board the Enterprise. On the Holodeck, a person can put themselves in any situation they chose, and the computer will simulate the event, thus letting the person experience first-hand whatever event they wish. The computer gives the person the sights, sounds, smells, taste, and feel of actually being wherever, i.e., in a movie scene or a period in history.
I hear some of you saying right now, “What does that have to do with learning how to ‘show’ more and ‘tell’ less?” Well, take any scene from your novel. Stand in the room and close your eyes. You are now in the Holodeck, and you are the character. What do you see in your mind? How does the scene smell around you? What can you hear? Are you being touched and how by whom? See it in your mind’s eye.
Now sit back down at your computer, typewriter, or notebook. Write what you just experienced. Use the exact words for the sensations. Don’t say, “I was standing . . . wherever.”
I’ll use a battlefield for my example.
Standing in the midst of the heated battle, Lord Loxley felt the sweat trickle down his back. Blood soaked the earth from the corpses that lay littered at his feet. The ooze coagulated on his boots making his feet slip as he tried to push forward. An injured warrior grabbed at his cloak as he jumped over the tangle of body parts.
You get a good picture of what is going on in this scene. But if I described it this way what would you think?
Lord Loxley stood looking over the battlefield. There was so much carnage. The men he led were nearly all gone.
The Holodeck idea helps to put the scene into your own eyes so you can put it on the paper. In our real world, we now have smartphones with gadgets that let us experience a three D world. It’s the same idea. Writers need to put these on while writing to help them get over the telling of their story. Then just practice, practice, practice. Write a scene, make something up, using the idea of the Holodeck. Close your eyes and immerse yourself in the scene. Then write it down. Chose a different scene, close your eyes, experience it, then write it down. Experience it, write it, repeat. Before long, the words start to flow, and it gets easier to put the right words down, and you’ll be showing your reader everything the characters are experiencing.
It won’t happen overnight. However, it gets easier the more you do it. I write something like this every day to practice. I’ll probably never use whatever I wrote, but that’s not the idea. Practice makes perfect and perfect practice makes best sellers. Now go forth and show the world.