Friday, 5 April 2013


If you’ve ever taken a creative writing course or read a book about the subject you'll hear the phrase 'show don’t tell' and you may wonder why. 

Here's an example of showing from William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. ‘His face puckered, the tears leapt from his eyes, his mouth opened till they could see a square black hole...’ This is a vivid piece of writing with a powerful emotional effect. The reader can visualize the act being described as well as feeling empathy for the character. If Golding had told us ‘Piggy bawled his eyes out...’ it doesn’t have anywhere near the same impact.

But, you may ask, surely there are times when telling is useful or unavoidable? And you’re absolutely correct. Telling does serve a function. It’s extremely useful when you want to summarize for example, a character’s backstory. ‘He was born in north London and when he was ten they moved to south London’.  Don’t give too much information – leave room for questions. Why did his family move? What was the effect on a boy of that age? This way you involve your reader more intimately as their imagination works to fill in the gaps and supply the answers. Drip feed information to the reader, don’t give it all at once.

The importance of showing and telling is they create variety in the rhythm of the writing. Showing slows time down by allowing the reader to experience events and a character’s internal and external reactions as they happen. Showing is for crucial events because it’s more dramatic and the action on paper may even take longer than it would in reality. (Of course it’s purely subjective whether or not you enjoy the blow by blow of ninja warriors in action.)

Telling, on the other hand, allows you to speed up and cover periods of time and/or events which, although not central, the reader does need to know. Achieving the correct rhythm between showing and telling, getting that balance right between  slowing down and speeding up, is one of the aspects a writer works towards and when it’s right, your story works much better.

Second edit of the novel started off fine this week – and I’ve put in steady time every day – but yesterday and today, it felt like I was pulling teeth – a hard and painful experience. Monday and Tuesday, no problems, but then the character I’m rewriting appeared. It’s not so much his dialogue that so awkward, it’s fixing all the little bits that surround the dialogue that’s painstaking. Sentences that I’d worked over and over till I was satisfied now have to be rephrased and modified yet again. But I'm just going to keep writing. After all, this is part of the journey. Okay, it’s the uphill part but if I don’t climb the hill I’ll never see the view spread out down below will I?

Today’s Haiku

Ethically sourced
finest Arabica slips
straight to my bloodstream.

I’ve been given the heads up that Roads Taken will be available for free on a 5 day promotion on Amazon from 13th – 17th April. My advice – take advantage and download it for free. 
 ROADS TAKEN: Short Stories

If you’re working on your character’s behaviour and motivation, the following link (from one of the writer’s newsletters I subscribe to) has an interesting perspective on personalities you might find helpful. 

A valuable book is How Fiction Works by James Wood which has lots of insights to help with your writing. 

For all book lovers out there, I wish you good reading and for those of you who write, good writing.

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Apart from writing, I'm compiling a bucket list of places I'd like to  visit...from Iceland to Hawaii and onwards....

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