When I first heard about it, it was hard to get people to spell it out, define it for me. They'd quote me Anton Chekov's "Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass." And that's lovely. But as a new writer--who sucks at description--getting my hands around that imagery so I could apply it to my own little scenes was like expecting me to suddenly be able to handle the women's uneven parallel bars.
Aware of my shortcoming, I've been diligently seeking to understand it, so I can use it. I talked about the Show, Don't Tell class taught by author/editor Annette Lyon at the 2011 Storymakers conference in my blog post here.
The R&R input has shown me some kinds of telling I hadn't recognized as such. I pulled out Annette's PowerPoint, and printed out some key slides to remind me of things--like senses. For example, she suggests that each page should have include at least one other sense besides sight.
So, last week I'm plugging away, evaluating the comments provided by the small publisher while going through my copy of The Emotion Thesaurus, published by the awesome ladies over at The Bookshelf Muse.
It was like someone had whacked me up side the head. I connected some dots!
One of the things Annette says is to trust your audience, that when we "tell" them what to feel, we're insulting the reader's intelligence. Instead, let the reader experience it with the character.
Sitting in front of me was a single paragraph that identified three emotions. Three! In one paragraph. Where I told the reader how to feel.
You guys are probably sitting there and thinking, "I already knew that."
Shut up. Because I didn't.
So, I sought out a list of emotions and printed it out, adding it to those nifty slides. I've been busily evaluating each time I've used one. I ask myself if there's a way I can show it with body language. Since this project is in first person, I can show internally or externally.
I'm not necessarily good at the showing yet, but at least now I'm better armed at identifying the places that need attention. This is huge for me.
What about you? What's the hardest thing for you with the showing thing?