Today I'm happy to have Tara Fox Hall, author of the Promise Me series to share her ideas about writing. Tara gives us an author's eye view of how to entertain and capture a reader's attention.
SHOW NOT TELL
I forwent the treadmill today for walking out side with the dogs. Beautiful evening, even though I got caught in the rain. This was one of those times it added to the experience, and was relaxing. Such a lovely stormy sky, with no lightning or thunder to make me worry.
Now, while that paragraph might have been enough to give you facts of what and when, was it enough to bring you, the reader, into that moment with me? I daresay not. Let’s try again.
The freshly plowed fields were dark with remnants of rain that had fallen only a few hours before. Yet the path was only slightly muddy, something I was grateful for, even as I picked my way along. The alfalfa was already green and growing, signaling spring was here. The first trilliums had opened their petals just inside the forest edge, spotting the many hues of brown forest floor with spots of white. My dogs--large shepherd and small mutt--sniffed excitedly, tails wagging as they trotted beside me. There were only the sounds of the wind in the treetops, and the footfalls of our brisk pace. Then a coyote’s howl pieced the silence, answered quickly by some of his fellows far off to the northwest. As we neared home, the stormcloud sky darkened slightly, and rain began to fall, pattering gently on us, as if in blessing. Blissful, I closed my eyes and raised my face, the sensation of the rain both relaxing and freeing. This was a moment of perfect peace, and also renewal of hope and anticipation for the evening still to come.
Same subject, yes, but anyone reading this second paragraph felt something more than they experienced with the preceeding paragraph. This is the infamous “Show, Not Tell,” that every writer hears at some point in their career. It was very hard for me to learn at first. It’s in our nature to tell people what we’ve been doing when we communicate with them, to give them a synopsis of what happened, without too much detail. In essence, I had to relearn how to tell a story to capture not only what happened, but how it felt to the subject of the story when it happened. Include sensation, emotion, perception, and any good details that lend reality to your story, so the characters are believable as possible. Only then can the reader truly identify with your character, and lose themselves in the story.