Monday, November 16, 2009

Show It Like It Is

"Showing" is how writers help a reader feel as if they're seeing and experiencing the conflicts and resolutions of your story just as the protagonist is. The three best ways I've found to show a scene rather than to tell it are to include dialogue, action, and details.

First, dialogue and action are more than self-explanatory, they are critical to fiction; for if your characters aren't saying or doing anything besides looking at your imaginative setting or thinking about what they want to do, they are stagnant. Boring. Your readers may even, heaven forbid, close your book and never pick it up again. So as you look over your manuscript, make sure your characters are doing and saying something important.

Adding descriptive details is another invaluable tool. And when I talk about details, I'm referring to those that reflect all 6+ senses: sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch, and intuition.

As I was revising my novel, MISSING, I was happily surprised by how much stronger one of my less action-packed scenes became when I incorporated such details as what one of my villains was listening to on the radio and how she felt when an unexpected stranger passed by.

Now for the big question: how do you know if you're telling more than showing your story? The answer's simple. As you glimpse over each page of your manuscript, watch for these indicators:

1. Your page is filled with long, uninterrupted paragraphs.
2. There is no dialogue on the page.
3. Your characters aren't doing anything but looking or thinking.

If you have any of these factors, take a good look at your manuscript and see if you can add dialogue, action, or details. I bet you'll be able to, and your writing will be stronger because of it.

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