Please welcome back Rebecca to the blog today, with another of her fantastic workshops. Pay attention at the back!
This week’s Show Don’t Tell workshop focuses on telling the reader what is going on in the main character’s head, rather than showing the reader and allowing her to form her own opinions, as well as make her own conclusions about what the author is trying to convey.
Here is the Telling scene:
Jenna didn’t understand her friends’ actions. She realized they meant well, but she wondered what made them come to that conclusion. She had to know.
She talked to them and learned that they believed she was lonely and needed a boyfriend. But she couldn’t imagine ever dating again. Not after what happened with the last one. She wondered how she could ever replace the greatest boyfriend in the world.
Now let's analyse this...
Not only is this telling, it is vague and does not invite the reader to experience Jenna’s emotions. Where does this take place? Where are the other characters? Who are the other characters? What did her friends do? Why isn’t there any dialogue? And those are just the start of questions that need to be answered. While it is okay to keep something from your readers, they will demand that some of these story questions be addressed.
So let’s break this scene down and see where the writing went wrong.
Ready to put it all together and see how following the Show Don’t Tell guidelines creates a strong emotional scene for the reader to experience?
Standing in the hallway outside her math class, Jenna scratched her head as Matthew Black strutted over to his buddies. He glanced over his shoulder, winked, and mouthed, “Call me.”
Across the corridor, Mallory and Aspen giggled and grinned from the safety of their lockers. Jenna’s hands balled into fists and she glared. Best friends or not, they had no right. How could they tell Matthew she liked him? Even if she did, that was before … before …
Jenna swiped a tear from her cheek. Slamming her hands onto her hips, she marched over to them. “How could you?”
Mallory averted her gaze to her neon orange running shoes, and Aspen rifled through papers in her locker.
Jenna widened her stance. “Don’t ignore me. You owe me an explanation.”
They glanced at each other, their smiles replaced with downward glances and fidgeting hands.
“We just thought …” Mallory cleared her throat.
Aspen stepped forward. “We thought it was time for you to start dating again. You never do anything fun.”
Mallory pushed between us. “You never smile.” She shuffled her feet. “You seem lonely.”
Jenna’s jaw dropped. “Date again?” How could they even propose such a thing? She steeled her chin. “Jared’s my boyfriend—the kindest, funniest, sweetest boy in the”—her voice cracked—“that doesn’t change just because he died.”
Tears flooded Jenna’s cheeks. Mallory and Aspen huddled around her, hugging and crying with her. How do you replace the greatest boyfriend in the world?
Was that helpful? Let us know in the comments!
Every Wednesday and Saturday we bring you an edit tip of the day. Be sure to check out the archives for our popular summer series of SHOW DON'T TELL workshops!