Tuesday, November 26, 2013

4 Writing Tips to SHOW and NOT TELL



One of the things I’ll be looking for on the Pitch Wars entries is the ability to show versus tell. Well, and not only in Pitch Wars, but in the other contests I host, like The Writer’s Voice, too. 

So today, I’ll be giving a few tips about how you can either identify when you’re telling, and how you can improve that.

1) Filters:
When you say “I knew,” “I think,” “I see,” you are telling the reader what the MC knows, what he thinks, what he sees, INSTEAD of just going ahead and showing what the MC knows, thinks, and sees.
Examples:  
“I wonder if it’s a good idea.” --> “Is it a good idea?”
“I knew he was right.”--> “He was right.”
So always, try to nix the filter… UNLESS you want to accomplish something else with the filter, like voice, or like foreshadowing something, like:
“He is the murderer, I’m sure.”
In that case above, adding “I’m sure” foreshadows that the MC can be wrong. And if the MC says “He’s the murderer,” then you’re not foreshadowing anything. He *is* the murderer, then, the readers will think.In other words, use filters knowingly.

2) Telly Verbs:
Watch out for these: “is, are, am, etc.,” and verbs like “feel.”
First work on identifying these type of verbs. Then you can change them.
Example:
“The wave was big.” --> ”The wave rolled forward and swelled, towering over the ships of the bay.”
“I am scared.” --> “Holy crap, where did I leave my taser?”
“What he’s doing is dangerous.” --> “He’s driving ever so fast, catching speed, aiming directly at that cliff.”

3) Naming Emotions:
This one is like the example above of the taser--when you name an emotion, like “She’s nervous.” Or “He was upset.” etc. When there’s the name of an emotion in your MS, then you probably are telling the reader how the character feels instead of showing how he feels.
Examples:
“I’m angry at him.” --> ”That @#$%&, he’s so full of himself. He should rot in hell.”
“I’m frustrated.”--> “Oh, come on! Give me a freaking break.”

4) Subjective Adjectives:
If the adjectives are subjective, like beautiful, pretty, ugly, etc, it won’t convey a visual to the reader—you won’t be able to show what you mean well. Because something that is pretty for someone could be ugly for someone else. Always try to choose objective adjectives.
Example:
“Her hair was so pretty.” --> “Her honey-colored hair shined, and when he touched it, it felt soft, like… [um, I can only think silk right now, haha! But “soft as silk” is so cliché. Still. You get what I mean, right? =) ]”

There are other ways to identify telly places, like watching out for “info dumpy” paragraphs, not using dialogue when you could, etc. But this post is getting long, so that’s all for today, folks!
Hope it helps!
Looking forward to reading your entries next week!

<3
Mónica

30 comments:

  1. As much as I try the first time around, I am ALWAYS fixing this stuff in subsequent drafts. I need constant reminders how to do this. Thanks!

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    1. Oh trust me, my first drafts are full of filters and telly verbs and everything too! :P

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  2. Great reminders here with terrific examples. I will be sharing this link on my blog. Thanks!

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  3. I laughed at this example. “I am scared.” --> “Holy crap, where did I leave my taser?”

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  4. This is a really helpful post. I love the "I'm angry at him" one.

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    1. Oh, thanks so much! I'm really glad it helps! XO

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  5. These are great! Going back to reread my MS right now.

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  6. "Where did I leave my taser?" Ha ha! Love it! Great post!

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  7. Awesome post, Monica! You've provided some EXCELLENT examples of showing. I wish my new story was ready for Pitch Wars, but I'll be rooting on the entrants! Good luck and enjoy!

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    1. Thanks, hun! Oh, and I hope you finish that story soon!! xoxo

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  8. Gosh, I hope you find your taser! Fantastic advice and I LOVE the examples.

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  9. So succinct in your explanations. Wonderful post. :)

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  10. I'm going to swing this sword of editing at my Nano draft and see if I can get it whipped into shape! Thanks!

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  11. Thanks. I never really thought much I about the I see, I think, etc. or naming the emotions. Don't think I do much of the first one, but I'll have to watch for those in the future just to make sure along with the emotions.

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  12. Awesome post. I will use these keys when writing my next short story

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