I hope your week’s been going just splendidly! ❤ Today, we’ll take a look at a few writing tips that will help with showing vs. telling, something most (every?) author has difficulty with. These pretty much help make the writing style instantaneously better. But find what works for you. 😉
I’ve seen a lot of blog posts on how you should show and don’t tell, and I can see how it works in their examples, but I wasn’t really sure how to do that in my writing until recently.
Here are a few tips you might want to keep in mind while writing. I’ll provide examples of my own to show the difference between rough draft and third draft. I hope they help. 🙂
Tip #1: Use Dialogue Tags Sparingly
To cut down the telling and up the showing element, I’ve tried to use fewer dialogue tags. Take a look at the following passages from the first chapter of The Reset and notice how the writing flows as well as how you can sort of get the implied tone of the characters as opposed to me telling you how they’re speaking.
Pay attention to the words in bold in the second excerpt. That’s where I cut the tags/inserted action.
Draft 1: Excerpt 1
“What do you want?” I snap, not in the mood for any sort of conversation.
“I came to see if you’ve discovered anything,” he yawns.
“I haven’t. Now go away.”
“My dear girl, you didn’t even look. I’d bet my cat on it.”
The feline looks up at me with that strange golden eye. The other one is hidden by an eye patch.
“What do you want?” I sigh, pouring myself a cup of coffee.
“I want his blood.”
When I turn around, Fëar is standing right in front of me.
Draft 3: Excerpt 1 of the Same Passage
I sighed and ran a hand through my hair. “What do you want?”
He yawned and stretched. “I came to see if you’d been issued your new target.”
“I haven’t.” I rubbed my temples as a migraine began to torment me. “Now do please go away.”
“My dear girl, you didn’t even go in to find out.” Fëar sat up straight as his feet hit the floor. He swept the room with a quick glance. “I’d bet my cat on it.”
The feline regarded me with that strange golden eye. It adopted a defensive position as if afraid its owner might lose the wager.
I repeated the question as I poured myself a mug of steaming black coffee. “What do you want?”
“Blood.” His words were a snarl in my ear, thick as the crimson liquid he desired oozing out of a fresh wound.
Tip #2: Don’t Let the Cat Out of the Bag Too Soon/The Curse of Knowledge
This is something I’m having to work on. In my first and second drafts, I think I dropped too much backstory/fact at once. It gave the reader nothing to wonder about. Don’t do that. 😛 You want your reader to be curious. They can’t be that if you have an info-dump at the beginning or even throughout your story.
Let’s take a look at how this plays out.
Draft 1: Excerpt 2
“Tough, isn’t it?” Fëar looks sympathetic for a moment, but I know he can’t really be feeling that way. He’s incapable of feeling whatsoever. “You’re still so human. It’s a tough phase. You’ll get over it one day.”
Draft 3: Excerpt 2 of the Same Passage
“Tough, isn’t it?” Fëar appeared sympathetic for a moment, but I knew better. “You’re still so human. It’s a tough phase. You’ll get over it one day.”
Notice how Althea didn’t explain why she knew better. This is what I’ll call the curse of knowledge.
You know how there are some really smart people and they’ll be talking about how one interior angle of a heptagon is 128 4/7 degrees or they’ll go off about the current crisis in Crimea or about how ISIS is beheading people in Iran and you’ll still be wondering what the heck a heptagon is, who Putin is, and what ISIS stands for or if it’s just a name of some Egyptian goddess from times long gone.
The people talking in those situations would have what we call the “burden/curse of knowledge.” They know something, so they think you know it too. But you don’t.
In 1PPOV* novels, we, as readers, are limited to only what the MC** knows. When the book starts in media res***, we miss some information – information that makes us curious. So don’t start off with an info-dump. Keep us guessing for a while. 😉
Tip #3: Don’t State a Character’s Emotions
This implies telling rather than showing. “Felt” is often a clue word that indicates you’re telling. Try not to use it, or feeling adjectives. Avoid:
Instead, try to show those emotions through a character’s actions.
“Leave my computer alone!” I screamed, angry.
Example 1: Edited
My fingers curled into my palms. When I spoke, my voice had risen several octaves and increased in volume. “Leave my computer alone!”
Not the best example, but does this make sense?
Hope this helps, darling. 🙂
How about you? Have you got any editing tips for us? Any tidbits to keep in mind while writing?
For better posts on this stuff, check out:
* = First Person Point of View
** = Main Character
*** = in the midst of things (basically starting in the middle)