|C. Kevin Thompson|
Show & Tell.
Remember those days? Girls holding stinky, pet rabbits named “Fluffy”? Boys opening shoe boxes only to have their pet frog jump out and terrorize the class? Each stood before the class, giving you all the pertinent data, like how old the animal was, how much they ate, and where they got it.
In each case, you were TOLD all the details. You never saw the frog eat. You didn’t witness the birth of the rabbit, so its age was suspect. You just had to believe them.
We, as writers, are often guilty of Kindergartenitis. We TELL our readers what’s happening instead of SHOWING. It’s a common mistake. We TELL the reader the character’s age, her nationality, and what she’s driving down a crowded interstate. We leave little to the imagination.
Why do we do this? The answer is two-fold. First, we don’t trust our readers to “figure it out.” We’re afraid they’ll get it wrong. That’s why another common mistake follows closely: Detail overload. We feel we have to “make sure” they get it, so we go on and on explaining the diameter of the rivets on the airplane.
Second, we get lazy. It’s easier to say, “The grungy, treacherous man sat at the table playing Solitaire, waiting for the ill-kept boat to rendezvous with the human traffickers.” We add the ten-dollar adjectives to spice it up. “That makes it real,” you say?
Yeah. Real boring.
SHOWING versus TELLING is subtle, but powerful, if done correctly:
On the other side of the table, playing cards, sat a skinny, tanned man. He wore a thin, white tank top t-shirt, blue jeans, and a filthy, diseased-looking ball cap. His sweaty, unbathed body exuded a raunchy, rancid odor which reminded Jacob of the locker room at the gym his dad took him to from time to time. But this stench was much worse. A hand gun rested on the table next to an open can of soda. The man hummed some Latin tune as he flipped card after card, occasionally shifting some once in a while from one pile to another.
Did you notice the game being played? Can the reader figure it out from the details? Sure can. This adds the tension to reading most readers crave. What do I mean by that? Not only do readers want the overall storyline to be engaging, but they want the mystery of the words to be engaging as well. They want to figure out the little details as much as “Whodunit” in the end.
Did you get a sense for the character of the characters? Smelly man’s the bad guy, right? What’s his profession? Can you guess it? Jacob is young, right? Goes to the gym with his father…
Can you smell the smells? See the scene in what I like to call “the movie screen of your mind”?
I’m not saying this paragraph is perfect. It comes from the third book in my Blake Meyers series, tentatively entitled The Tide of Times, which is presently in manuscript form and has yet to be edited fully. So, it may look different once published, but you get the point.
Don’t short sale your readers. Give them credit. As a writer, don’t forget what it is to be a reader. The things that other authors do which tick you off royally as a reader are probably the same things you should avoid when you write.
Now, go catch that frog!
A Clandestine Mission.
A Cryptic Message.
A Chaste Promise.
Blake Meyer dreamed of a peaceful end to a dutiful career with the FBI. Married now, his life was taking him in a new direction—a desk job. He would be an analyst. Ride it out until retirement. Be safe so he could enjoy his grandchildren some day.
But when a notable member of the IRA is murdered in a London flat, Blake’s secretive past propels him into the middle of a vindictive, international scheme so hellish and horrific, it will take everything Blake possesses—all of it—to save the United States from the most diabolical terrorist attack to date.
C. KEVIN THOMPSON is an ordained minister, having served churches in New York, Mississippi, Texas, and Iowa. He is married (for 33+ years), has three daughters, two sons-in-law, and five grandchildren. He speaks in churches on occasion, presently works as an assistant principal in a Central Florida school district, and plays the drums in his church’s praise team. He is a huge fan of the TV series 24 , The Blacklist, and Criminal Minds, loves anything to do with Star Trek, and is a Sherlock Holmes fanatic, too.
Kevin is a member of the Christian Authors Network (CAN), ACFW, and Word Weavers International, and his published works include two award-winning novels, The Serpent’s Grasp (OakTara, 2012; winner of the 2013 Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference Selah Award for First Fiction) and 30 Days Hath Revenge - A Blake Meyer Thriller: Book 1 (OakTara 2013), as well as articles in The Wesleyan Advocate, The Preacher, Vista, The Des Moines Register and The Ocala Star-Banner.
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