Saturday, March 26, 2016

Show versus tell when we write....

I'm often told that I write like I paint - with passion and color and depth.  I think that's mostly true. When I'm in a room in my mind, I want to see it, feel it, hear it and smell it.  I want to know what's cooking in the kitchen and what the rain sounds like on the window pane. :-)

We, as writers, need to create characters that our readers love or hate, like a painting that people see and love or hate.  There is no middle ground.  Our characters have to be real and known or the reader will feel nothing and won't care what happens to them; our characters have to be 3-D people, not paper dolls.   We anchor them in a city or town, a house, a room...  we show what they like or dislike, have them fall in love or pick up the pieces of a broken heart;  we will convey somehow through a dress or painting their favorite color;  we will envelope the reader in the smell of their favorite dish or flower.  Characters can be like us or  be totally opposite to us.  We form our character to live within our story, within their world not ours.  Our words can't just set them down in a place, like he lives in Boston, Seattle, or she lives in Paris in an apartment.  Our readers want to "see" that city as your character walks the streets, the building he lives in as he leaves for work each morning, and the apartment that he or she spends their off hours in.  But the hard part as a writer is not stating the boring facts -- it's a 12 by 14 foot room, with a window, a rug and a pull out bed.  So? What have we learned about the character?  Are they rich or poor?  Like nice things or decorate with second hand items?  Are they living here to save money or are they only here for a short time?  We know nothing.

I'm currently working on a third manuscript, and here's what I say about the female character, "While the driver placed her single piece of luggage in his trunk, Brielle kicked off her black suede Louboutin pumps and massaged each foot slowly.  Her feet tended to swell on long flights."  While this might not be the best example of what I've been saying, I had this file open on my computer as I wrote my piece.  It does show however, many things about the main character without telling you directly all of the dry facts - we know her name is Brielle, very French; she travels light with a single suitcase; she likes expensive clothes - Louboutin heels; her pumps are suede, therefore it's not summer; and she had taken a long flight from somewhere to here with little luggage - thus a short trip?  She also knows that her feet swell on long flights, so she flies often enough to recognize this fact and yet has chosen to wear a pair of shoes that will hurt her feet.  Is it choice or necessity?   Ah... more information to be uncovered as we move on through the chapter.  We are building a puzzle, pulling in our readers as we lay out each piece so they wonder what the next piece will reveal.  Each sentence has to be polished - a gem.  And that's not an easy task - trust me.  I labor over my writing... hours, days, and sometimes weeks to find the perfect word or sentence... and still, I  find words and phrases that can be eliminated or made better.

This is both the joy and frustration of being a writer - carving the pieces out so that they fit together and eventually show the entire picture.

Well, enough for today.  Back to my travels and writing...