Please welcome Rebecca to the blog today, with her second brilliant Show Don't Tell workshop.
Brielle looked in the window (1) with excitement (2). She saw the most beautiful gown (3) in the world, the perfect one for senior prom. Even though she felt sad (4) that Cayden hadn’t asked her, that no one had asked her, she made up her mind to go anyway (5). And this dress would make him jealous (6)—sorry he asked Mia Keller with the big boobs, instead.
Now let's analyse this...
(1) Looked in the window
While there’s nothing wrong with using “looked,” and it is an active verb, there are stronger verbs/synonyms of looked that can create a more vivid image. Peered, stared, gawked, etc.
(2) With excitement
This is classic TELLING. Don’t tell the reader how she feels, SHOW them in her actions. She could bounce up and down or chew her lip, etc.
(3) She saw the most beautiful gown
Don’t TELL the reader what she saw, omit the “she saw” and just SHOW us what’s staring back at her. And this is a great place to add detail to give the reader a clear image of the dress she’s admiring.
(4) She felt sad
This is an opportunity lost for readers to CONNECT and BOND with the character, to EXPERIENCE her pain over not being asked to prom. If readers don’t connect, they won’t feel invested in the story, in the character, and might stop reading. So give them all the feels. SHOW them her sadness and disappointment; have her swipe away a tear, swallow a lump down her throat, have her chest constrict.
(5) She made up her mind to go anyway
The phrase “she made up her mind” TELLS the reader the process instead of SHOWING them. Have her check her purse for money, walk away from the store and return, pace. SHOW the reader her apprehension and then the decision as she marches into the store.
(6) And this dress would make him jealous
The first thing I do is question “why?” Why would this dress make Cayden jealous? The reader has no idea what this dress looks like, or more importantly, what it looks like on Brielle. Does it transform a duck into a swan? Does she go from plain to sexy? Again, SHOW the reader these important details so they can create a clear image of this important scene, rooting for Brielle against all the unfairness that is high school.
Taking all of the above suggestions, this is a new-and-improved scene of Brielle’s quest for a prom gown. And yes, showing a reader does take more time, effort, and add significantly to the word count, but the results are worth it.
With her forehead pressed against glass, Brielle peered into the storefront window, her eyes locking on a satin, turquoise gown with a form-fitting bodice, plunging neck line, spaghetti straps, and an ankle length skirt with a slit up the leg, all the way to the thigh. Her chest pounded. She imagined herself in the gown, slow dancing with Cayden at their senior prom. Like that would ever happen. He didn’t even know she existed.
Brielle sighed. The dress was perfect. The perfect color for her olive skin. The perfect shape for her curves. But attending prom without a date was not the way she envisioned the important rite of passage. But no one asked her. Just like last year. Just like the year before. She swiped at a tear. Should she go just to say she went?
She opened her purse and checked the wallet. Three hundred-dollar bills smiled back. Biting her lip, she paced in front of the store, paused at the double glass doors, and turned on her heels, heading back to her car. Three hundred dollars for a dress she’d only wear once? Three hundred dollars for her pride? Hell yes.
Marching back to the store, she flung open both doors. With her head held high, she strutted to the gown and bee-lined for the dressing room. Slipping the dress over her bra and underwear, she gasped at her reflection in the mirror. No longer plain and insecure, she’d transformed into a sexy, confidant woman. She extended her long, tanned leg out the slit and grinned. Cayden may have asked Mia Keller with the big boobs, but once he got a look at Brielle in that dress, he, and all the other boys who didn’t ask her, would be sorry. Eat your heart out, Cayden.
Brielle paid for the dress and wore it out of the store.
Was that helpful? Let us know in the comments!
Every Wednesday we bring you an edit tip of the day and on Mondays throughout the summer a series of SHOW DON'T TELL workshops!