I write stuff for kids...and muse on writing, children's books, and the publishing industry in general

Friday, April 22, 2011

My A-Z of Writing Tips: Show Not Tell Crusader Challenge

Today's the day of my Show Not Tell Crusader Challenge, woot! Before I go into the Challenge, some thoughts on Show not Tell:
  • 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.

And him.

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.



Unknown said...

Eeek! What does she (he?) know?
Creepy! Well done. Must go write mine now...

Pearson Report said...

Rachael - I am blown away by your piece. It is truly a work of art. The way you have written this I could feel, smell, taste, hear and touch everything as if I was there.
Brilliant, truly brilliant.

I would have loved to try my hand at this challenge and forgive me for not - I am finding the A-Z Challenge all consuming along with my "life outside of the blogging world" and therefore I can only enjoy it vicariously through your work and that of the others that have entered.

Rest assured, after I am finished this A-Z stint I will sit down and attempt this challenge, even if only as an exercise for myself.

I'm so glad I found your site - you are very inspiring.

Have a wonderful Easter weekend.

Alison Pearce Stevens said...

Excellent work! :D

J.C. Martin said...

Scary! What a build-up to the end! This has been my fave Crusader Challenge yet!

scribbleandedit.blogspot.co.uk said...

I loved the line: 'gloom laid its blanket of silence over the world' :O)

Anonymous said...

Posted mine. Loved yours!

Anonymous said...

Posted mine. Loved yours!

Adina West said...

Damn those unhelpful curry eaters...

Loved your entry!

jkraus8464 said...

Rach, this is so wonderful. You really got my attention and a lot of it has to do with your sentence length and variation. You artfully weave tension into your story and then leave me on tenterhooks. Well done Writing.

erica and christy said...

Chills! Mine's also posted! Christy

Crystal said...

Posted mine! Woot! This was fun. I can't wait to be a part of the next Crusader's platform! :-)

Cherie Reich said...

Wow! Great piece! The end gives me goosebumps.

I should count up my "S" words too. I think I used quite a few. Fun challenge!

Zan Marie said...

Mine's up and I'm blown away by yours!

" I tasted my salvation, a sweet syrup on my tongue."

This line sells it to me. That's wonderful!

Thanks for the Crusade and the challenges. This is fun.

Unknown said...

Well done! Loved the descriptions, and the tension was palpable. What happened next?? :))

Daniel Audet said...

I wish I had seen this sooner! Found the shield "Crusader" widget on E.J. Wesley's cool site. Good stuff, Thank You!

Bridgid Gallagher said...

Ooh, great story. Well done! That last line gave me shivers

Love the challenge!

Carol Riggs said...

Very well written, Rach! I enjoyed this. Loved the way you incorporated saccadic in particular. ;o) And how you used the senses--very nice!

Raejean said...

I love your piece; it's a great example of how effective "show not tell" can be. I'm hooked on the story! When can I read the rest?

Author Joshua Hoyt said...

Great job I am going to see if I have time to write something up. I look forward to following you.

Donea Lee said...

Ah, SO good!! Very atmospheric - you drew me in. Wonderful use of the senses and all the words!

Thanks, so much, for hosting the crusade! It's been a lot of fun ~ :)

Sierra Gardner said...

This was amazing Rachel. I totally felt physically connected to the scene and loved your use of all 5 senses. Thanks for everything you've done in putting together the Crusade - this has been amazing!

Michelle Merrill said...

Ah, what did she know? Who was it?

That was great Rach! Thanks for the last challenge and the whole crusade altogether. You certainly know how to make my muse work. I need your prompts to write my novels :)

Author Joshua Hoyt said...

I accepted the challenge and made my story.

Scott Niven said...

Wow, this was my first Show Not Tell Crusader Challenge and it was fun! There were lots of great entries in the mix, and they were all fun to read! Thanks for hosting this!


Kerri Cuev said...

Oh my goodness I have goose bumps reading this lol. Nice job! This was a tough challange.

Synithia said...

I'm not a crusader, but I had to participate. Your story was great! Thanks for the challenge, it really got my brain working.

Janina said...

Great challenge Rachael! Nice post. I've posted one as well. Looking forward to reading the way other crusaders and non-crusaders handled the challenge.

Nofretiri said...

It's 09:30 p.m. - a bit late, but still Saturday 22nd here in Germany! :-)

Well, the instructions haven't said anything that the little scene should be scary or about humans *ggg* ... hope you like it! =^..^=

Karin @ Nofretiris Dream Of Writing

P.S. Now I'm curious to read some of the other entries! :-)

Vicki Tremper said...

Ooh, Rach, very creepy! And I love the title.

Kerrin said...

awesome challenge, really challenging!
I'm a bit late, but i've joined in!!

Unknown said...

I loved your piece! Also, I had a lot of fun writing that final Crusader Challenge! Thank you so much.

Ju Dimello said...

I joined pretty late :) Hopefully will post the challenge soon!

Dark Passenger said...

Hi Rach,

I only started blogging earlier this month, starting the A-Z challenge rather late on the 10th April.

So I've been trying to play catch up for the last 2 weeks now. Today I finally caught up by posting 5 entries for: O, P, Q, R, and S!

Thanks for providing a cool brief for the challenge. Now that my story is finished, I look forward to reading some of the other people's entries.

Grant @ Grant's Big Blog

Lyndsey Davis said...

What fun. An excellent exercise.

Lisa said...

I enjoyed this challenge very much. Check mine out at the link below if you'd like.

With your next crusade. Even though it is closed will the prompts be up for those of us who want to play along on our own?

Inspired by Lisa

Li said...

Posted mine - I'm afraid it's not very scary and lacks your piece's finesse and atmosphere. Good practice for me though, so thanks for opening this up to everyone! Love your blog. Cheers!

Thinking said...

hmm...very nice...I have added my link too...but dont know whether I done it correctly or not...

Anonymous said...

Um. . . creepy? Hehe, I loved this! I especially like the line "food meant people meant help". It almost emphasizes how fast her mind is racing. And I'm curious as to what she knows. Awesome! :)

Deniz Bevan said...

Ooh, very mysterious. Love the graffiti!

Anonymous said...

Great suspense Rachel, well done. If I'm not too late I might have a go myself.

Cally Jackson said...

Fantastic writing, Rach. You've used the senses brilliantly to put me right there in the scene with your unfortunate protagonist. Hope she escapes somehow - eek!

Doctor FTSE said...

Small point Rachael. Everyone's stomach "rumbles" and a king-sized cliché like that can jar the suspense out of the fast lane and onto the hard shoulder. My stomach "went volcanic" Maybe better, "Had I ever felt quite so hungry?"

aisyahputrisetiawan said...

Banned complain !! Complaining only causes life and mind become more severe. Enjoy the rhythm of the problems faced. No matter ga life, not a problem not learn, so enjoy it :)

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