This piece of advice comes up again and again and again. In fact I’m sick of hearing it. While I was working on SORB my brain was filled with a litany that sounded something like this:
Show don’t tell, avoid repetition, use a stronger verb, drop that adverb. Show don’t tell, avoid repetition, use a stronger verb, drop that adverb. Show don’t tell, avoid repetition, use a stronger verb, drop that adverb.
Even though the cynic in me can’t help but point out that this umbrella piece of advice can’t possibly be suitable for every situation, I do acknowledge that my writing is a hell of a lot stronger as a result of keeping the phrase in mind. Which is nice. ^_^
So… from the view point of a person who hasn’t had any sort of ‘training’ in my chosen field :p I want to let you know what this means for me.
Showing how a character feels is a great deal stronger than simply telling the reader. My role, as a writer, is to immerse my reader fully into the story I’m telling and to do that, the five senses play an incredible role. I want you reader to feel, hear, see, smell and taste everything along with my characters.
So a sentence that looks like this:
Johnny was tired and cold.
Can turn into:
Johnny sighed, chaffing his arms with both hands. When he shivered, a trail of goosebumps prickled into being beneath his trembling fingers. Small puffs of white billowed from his lips as he opened his mouth in a yawn that split his jaw.
Yes, the second version is wordier, but its a good sort of wordy. The goosebumps down his arms, his shivers. Those are clues into how cold he is and if that’s not enough there’s the condensation from his mouth when he yawns; a traditional indicator of fatigue.
For some reason I was up for two hours at some point in the night thinking about all this. Probably because my head was filling up with plans for NaNo. I should really put thoughts like this to one side, mostly, since I’m working on a first draft, but having thoughts like this in the back of my mind will make the process of editing easier later. At least I hope.
What sort of tips do you keep in mind while writing your first draft? Is show, don’t tell one of your favourite pieces of advice, or are there others that you follow?