Thursday, June 28, 2012

Give and Take Thursday

Do you struggle with showing the reader how a character reacts? Does your crit partner tell you that you need to show more? Have you heard enough about showing yet?

Well, listen to this...
After all these years of history, you;d think men and women could get along better. But I am here to say that men and women are still completely different and want different things. For the most part...

Men show.
Women tell.

Now, women show too. There is love in everything we do, right? Except maybe dusting. I hate dusting. Sorry, back to topic. Women are expressers of feelings. We like to talk. Talk about our day, talk with our friends, talk about our kids, talk, talk, talk. For women, getting out the words is cathartic and most of the time all we need is a listening ear. And a "you go girl!"

Men show. They take pride in showing their stuff. See my house? See my woman? See what I can do? No need to talk, just do. If there's a problem, they fix it. When men get together, action is happening. Simple. And a punch in the arm.

So, how does this apply to writing?
When you think about it, we are telling a story. Using words is telling. Once upon a time there was an MC, this happened, then this happened, the MC solved the problem and everyone was happy. But as a writer, we are trying to do more than just tell, we want to show the movie we see in our heads. We want the reader to enter our imaginary world.

Writing a book is a beautiful marriage of showing and telling. Using the right words to express action and emotion.

Here is an example...

Just telling:
Steve walked to the corner market and was surprised by the long line.

Just action:
Steve had his hands in his pockets and was mad he had to go to the corner market. Not watching where he was going, he almost ran into a lady standing in a surprisingly long line outside.

Spicing up the telling and showing with a touch of feeling:
With his hands in his pockets, Steve kicked the dirt on his way to the corner market. Why do I always have to run these stupid errands? Lifting his head, he stopped short just before bumping into a lady and took a few steps back to gawk at the long line extending into the parking lot.

Here is how I try to spice things up. When a character says or does something:
  • how do they feel about it? you can use a thesaurus and find many lovely terms for feelings, but wait!
  • now ask, how do they look when they feel that way?
  • and if you can't picture it, act it out! how would you react? Get a mirror. Describe what you see.
  • give a character a quirk - always rubs his chin while he thinks, tugs on her ear when she lies, etc
  • and dialog is an easy way to show how a character reacts or feels, use it!
If you have more advice, please share! Any links? I'll take 'em and post 'em! It's give and take Thursday.

PS - I analogized marriage because today is my hub & my 15th anniversary. Love you, honey!


Kyra Lennon said...

Excellent post. Getting the balance between showing and telling is something I still find quite difficult!

Happy anniversary! <3

Dana said...

Happy anniversary!

Great tips. Loved the analogy. :)

Kim said...

Happy, happy, happy, happy anniversary :)
I LOVE this post. I have never thought about showing and telling in terms of male/female - but it is so true. And, just like a good marriage, a good story has elements of both :)

Stephen Tremp said...

Congrats! on the 15 year milestone. And great post today. I'll Tweet to that!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Happy anniversary! And excellent tips and examples.

Brinda said...

Happy Anniversay! This is a terrific post.

Anonymous said...

This reminded me of Leave it to Beaver, where Beaver and his dad are fishing in a boat. Beaver says it's nice just sitting and fishing together and not talking. But the whole time, all they did was talk. Ha-ha!!!
Great observations, Tara.

Christine Rains said...

Happy anniversary! :) Those are fabulous tips. If I feel I'm lacking something, I usually have some witty inner dialogue added to perk it up.

Rena said...

Happy Anniversary!

I like the way you break down the showing and telling. It's a hard balance between the two.

Gwen Gardner said...

Happy Anniversary!

And I loved your his/her analogy. Show don't tell is always so confusing for me, but this helps.

Oh, and your new digs are awesome, too!

Tara Rendall said...

Awesome post & great break down! You put things in a way that's easy to understand/get and many of us need that *raises hand*. Thanks!!

And happy anni!

Lynda R Young said...

Happy 15th wedding anniversary!!!

Great post on showing and telling, coupled with great tips on how to get inside the character's head. One of the better posts on the subject! Thanks so much.

Tara Tyler said...

you all are so sweet! thank you!

VikLit said...

Really good post and I enjoyed the example!

Heather M. Gardner said...

Well done! Not sure you need more help!
Happy Anniversary!