- stay in the moment (describe what is happening to your character as it is happening to avoid telling)
- avoid summarizing as much as possible (eg, "He stabbed her with a knife"). It can work well as a means of "skating over" unimportant details, or moving from one scene to another, but summarizing in the middle of a scene usually reads as "telling"
- keep an eye out for words that (often) indicate the presence of "telling". Examples include "was" (or other forms of "to be") and "felt" (eg, "He felt scared" or "He was scared"). Though note that not every use of "was" is telling
- try to avoid labelling feelings. Rather than saying, "I felt angry," describe what those emotions are doing to the characters, mentally and physically
- but don't just describe the physical effects of an emotion (eg "I clenched my fists"). Dig deeper. Utilize the five senses, things the character notices or doesn't notice, and memories of past events, as well as physical reactions, to show how the character is feeling
My Show Not Tell Challenge: In 300 words or less, write a passage (it can be an excerpt from your WIP, flash fiction, a poem, or any other writing) that shows (rather than tells) the following:
- you're scared and hungry
- it's dusk
- you think someone is following you
- and just for fun, see if you can involve all five senses AND include these random words: shimmer, saccadic, substance, and salt.
Here's my Challenge entry:
No escape. I spun, trying to find a way out even while I strained to see him. An hour until it was fully dark, but shadows had already swallowed the area around me. I could only see a few feet in any direction. Filthy alleyway. Dead-end wall behind me. Boxes, trash cans, rusty shopping cart lying on its side.
Where was he?
No doors to pound on, nobody to hear my screams. I couldn’t hear a sound except the thud, thud, thud of my heart and the soft rumble of a storm in the distance. Buildings surrounded me—industrial, gritty, windows staring while the gloom laid its blanket of silence over the world. Graffiti scribbled over the walls in glowing swirls: ‘Bajkarg,’ ‘Saccadic,’ ‘Ves.’ Gang names, or something more sinister?
No people. No help. Only buildings.
He sauntered toward me. I blinked but his outline shimmered; he had no substance, nothing I could focus on. My head spun, and I sucked in a deep breath.
The spicy smell of curry drifted toward me. My stomach rumbled. Food. Cooking. Food meant people meant help. I tasted my salvation, a sweet syrup on my tongue. If only they listened. “Somebody. Help. Can anyone hear me?” My voice gave out and I coughed, then tried to swallow against the rasp in my throat, the gritty feel of salt grains in my lungs, and the certainty that I’d failed.
No-one to stop him now.
The man strode closer.
I stepped backward, again and again. Once more. Sliding my feet, keeping myself grounded, until my fingertips scraped along the rough stone at my back. No escape.
He reached up and slowly pulled back the hood of his cloak.
And I knew.
288 words - check. Use of all five senses – check. Included the four random “s” words – check. I also gave myself an additional challenge – the above piece contains 41 words beginning with “s” *grins*. Hope you enjoyed it.
Check out the other Challenge entrants in the Linky List below. You're very welcome to join in this Challenge if you want, simply post your entry today (Friday, April 22nd) and enter your details on the Linky List.
PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU INCLUDE THE DIRECT LINK TO YOUR POST SO WE CAN FIND IT. DOUBLE-CHECK YOUR NAME AND BLOG LINK, AS I CAN'T CHANGE THE LINKY LIST. IF YOU MAKE A MISTAKE, RE-ENTER YOUR DETAILS WITH "(USE THIS ONE)" AFTER YOUR NAME/THE NAME OF YOUR BLOG