Time to level up and add another orb to my Writer Skill-Grid!
This time around I’ll investigate the idea of “Show, Don’t Tell.” A screenwriting skill that’s mixed and mingled it’s way over into novel writing, “show, don’t tell” is the idea that you want to detail to your readers what’s occurring on the page rather than just flat out telling them.
In cinema, if you’re character is, say, depressed because of their recent divorce, don’t just film a scene where they go out to brunch with their best friend and say, “I’m sad about my divorce,” and that’s it.
Shoot a scene where your main character is sitting at their empty office desk, shades pulled down, one single desk light, an open near-empty bottle of whiskey on the table, and a divorce notice from the husband’s attorney.
This graphic was taken from the publishing assistance group, Writer’s Relief, “a highly recommended author’s submission service,” who “help creative writers target their work to the best-suited agents and editors,” posted this helpful guide:
As always, writing advice is subjective and this isn’t the end-all be-all on the matter. Instead, it’s another way for my test myself and stretch some muscles I might typically ignore when writing.
This is a lot of tips to help you with your showing, don’ telling, so let’s take a look at……………number………6!
“6. ‘VERY’-not a very good descriptive word.”
For today’s skill-grid I’m going to use a sentence from an old short story I wrote about the world’s greatest hero.
“THESE WERE VERY EXPENSIVE. I DO WISH THAT HE WOULD TAKE THE FIGHT ELSEWHERE,” Nex said.
With no context whatsoever this seemed the best choice. Something is expensive and someone else is upset that people are fighting near it. So let’s elaborate on that term, “very.” Based on the descriptions above I’m supposed to show more describe how expensive it is. So let’s try….
“PLEASE TAKE YOUR FIGHT SOMEWHERE ELSE. THAT VASE COST MORE THAN THE ENTIRE GDP OF THE NATION OF FRANCE,” Vex said.
Okay, so from that little bit a reader would have a much stronger idea of how much that thing costs, whatever it was in the original story (I don’t quite remember.) Let’s do another one. (btw, doing searches for the word “very” in my old stories did inform me I use the term “every” and “everybody/thing” quite a bit, so, you know, learning.)
“All very natural. All within the same spectrum of the human evolutionary chain,” Clark said.
What about this one?
Does this merit a change?
I think not.
See, that’s the thing with writing advice. It’s not an umbrella that covers everything, rather, they’re rain boots you wear in certain occasions. I don’t see a problem with the above sentence because in context, the person is trying to calm his companions and explain that things are fine and nothing is wrong with the fake-science I made up.
Still…maybe I could have said:
“All completely natural and within the legal realm of study. All withing the same spectrum of the human evolutionary chain,” Clark said.
Thanks for the read!
See you guys Friday.