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Writing Craft: Show-Don’t-Tell*

Cheryl's Musings: Writing Craft: Show-Don’t-Tell*

Cheryl's Musings

How to Thrive on the Writer's Road


Writing Craft: Show-Don’t-Tell*

iStock_000009339689LargeCranking through the rewrite of my current WIP, I found a lot of “telling” that I needed to replace with better writing. In the spirit of show-don’t-tell, I attempted to come up with five ways to show that it’s cold without saying “it’s cold.”

1. Let the character experience the cold: Gooseflesh prickles up my bare arms as soon as I push off the covers.

2. Let her observe the cold: Ice filmed the inside of the cabin windows. I started shivering even before my feet touched the frozen floorboards.

3. Let her think about the cold: I didn’t expect the day’s chill, not in June. If I’d bothered to check the weather, I might have brought along a sweatshirt or jacket. Instead, I’m here in shorts and a tank top, resisting the urge to curl into a ball or warmth.

4. Let her worry about the cold: As the sun drops beyond the mountains, shadows lengthen, bringing with them the sharp-edged chill of the coming night. It pierces through my thin sweater and I wonder how long it will take before I turn into a human icicle. I have to find the cabin. Quickly.

5. Let her discuss the cold: Brrr!” I tuck my hands into the sleeves of my rain slicker, drawing deeper into the sheltering overhang. “My fingers won’t bend, they’re so frozen.”

Not masterful prose, perhaps, but the exercise helped to get my brain moving in the right direction.

Do you have a technique you’re trying to master? A bit of concentrated practice can help you learn incorporate a new technique smoothly into your writing, the way a batter might practice hitting a hundred balls before the actual game. Pretty soon, the technique becomes second nature. Give it a try!

:-) Cheryl

*This post was originally published Jan 2010



At February 8, 2011 at 6:48 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

Hi Cheryl! Just want to tell you how much I enjoy your blog. And oh...showing. Sometimes it's not that we don't grasp a concept as writers, but that we just don't exercise it. If I'm not careful, I will find myself telling something...out of sheer laziness I think...instead of showing it happening through dialogue, action, or description. My new obsession is meaningful dialogue. There's another post for you... :)

At February 8, 2011 at 3:04 PM , Blogger Jill Kemerer said...

Creative--I love this list! Showing is not an easy skill to master.

At February 8, 2011 at 8:09 PM , Blogger Cheryl Reif said...

Hi Charissa: Thanks so much for stopping by! I know what you mean...I "know" how to show versus tell, but I forget to *practice* it! Thanks for the idea of writing about dialog, too. I'll definitely take you up on that!

Jill: Thank you :) I find that practicing helps me remember to *use* the skill when it's actually time to write.

At February 9, 2011 at 2:29 PM , Blogger Patrick said...

Hi Cheryl, Patrick Ross here. Can I just say that your post gave me the "chills"? :) Great topic, great post, as always.

At February 10, 2011 at 8:47 PM , Blogger Cheryl Reif said...

Thanks, Patrick :).


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