Telling sentences may begin like this:
- I stand in the…
- She looks left, there to the …
- We wish …
- I sit here…
- She looks sadly at …
- He waits near…
These are forms of you the writer telling the reader about the character. We can hear you saying these words. But we can’t see these things happening on the page. Your voice is at the forefront. In sections she wants to use showing,the writer’s voice needs to fade into the background, so she’s narrating her story from inside a scene.
This is done by using less Telling words and structuring sentences using more Showing words:
Telling words to consider watching for:
I (or she, he, they, etc)—when you are telling us what your character did (I stand… She looks …etc).
Near, here, there—when you are telling us your character’s location in her surroundings (I wait here… She looks there…To Bill’s left… etc).
With and As—when you mean a way something is occurring (I wait with a ferocious grin... She stands with tears in her eyes, She ran as he followed…).
When it comes to the ‘placement’ words: near, there, left, right, here, try reading the sentence without those words. It should make sense even with taking them out.
- Example Toggle
Look at your sentence structure (the way you arrange your sentences). Try to move action into your telling sentences. You may find combining 2 lines works. You may have to shuffle things around:
- I close my eyes. My head leans against the rough wall.
- Leaning my head against the rough wall, I close my eyes.
If you use metaphors or similes you might be writing like this:
- News about the two dead bodies found in the pool has been spreading like wild fire.
Try moving these phrases at the beginning of your sentence:
- Like wild fire, news about the two dead bodies found in the pool began spreading.
Starting a description with an ‘a’ and writing about your character’s eyes – are two more Telling modes of writing.
Finding an –ing to add (and rearranging a line) sometimes helps show things more clearly:
- A hollow-eyed peddler leans forward from his rickshaw and sets off.
- Sharon, wide eyed, nods as I fidget in my seat…
- Leaning forward in his rickshaw, the hollow-eyed peddler set off.
- Sharon nods, wide eyed, at me fidgeting in my seat.
- She lies flat on her bed and dabs her face with a damp cloth.
- Suzie, flat on her bed, dabs her face with a damp cloth.
Taking the ‘I’ (or her or character name) out of a Telling sentence:
- Fingers trembling, I almost tear the thin paper in my haste.
- In my haste my trembling fingers nearly tear the thin paper.
- Lesson Exercise 1 Toggle
Lesson Exercise 1:
After reading the Topic and Example pages take a look at your own work.
First ask yourself:
- What is my character doing?
- Am I telling the reader about the action – and not showing it?
- Instead of telling it using ‘I’ or ‘her’, the ‘with’ or ‘as’, or those ‘placement words’, how can I show it more visually?
- If I want to keep an ‘I’ sentence, what more can I write about an action to show it more visually?
TELLING: (your character is on her bed eyes closed, not feeling well)
- I nod, my eyes still closed.
- I manage to nod, in spite of the pain.
Other ways of telling about how a character is feeling:
- Drives up my pulse…
- Causes my heart to …
- My blood in my veins…
- My breathing is …
If your pulse is racing…heart is pounding…blood or breath is…etc, etc, it’s because some event is causing your character to react. But the ‘state of being verbs’ (is, am, are, had, has, were, was). Do Not show us that reaction in physical, visual ways. Only action verbs can do that.
Now you try. Look at your work and get to slipping into scene.
Instead of telling us about your character’s blood pumping, breath shortening, heart beating, eyes widening, or pulse racing (reporting)– Show your characters in actions; moving or reacting in physical, visual ways where their bodily functions are a given within the context of the action.