Friday, September 30, 2011

Writing a Book - puppy dog tales

Think I misspelt that?

I haven't done one of these segments in a while, too many celebrations and challenges and stuff! For those just tuning in to the Talks, my Writing a Book posts are journal entries of things I've learned and how I'm working through this crazy process.

Any dog fans out there? I love my puppy! He's 85 lbs, but still a puppy. I love how innocent and eager to please and playful he is. And I love that I know exactly how he's feeling by his tail! When he's happy, of course it's wagging, usually his whole back half is wiggling and it's a lethal weapon! When he's sad or sick it goes down. Alert, the tail is upright and stiff while his nose sniffs the air. Casual, laidback tail is up but loose. When he's afraid, it does a hesitant wag with his hair standing up. And when he's in trouble it's, yup, between his legs.

Wouldn't it be great if humans had tails? No games or hiding emotions! Everyone would know how each other felt. But we don't. We have to use our words! And one of the toughest jobs of a writer is to SHOW how characters are feeling. It's easy to tell the reader, but showing lets the reader figure it out, helps them feel the emotions. Great writing wraps readers right into the story, making them connect with the characters.

Here is an example of telling, pointed out to me from my submission at Unicorn Bell:

As Cooper immersed himself in historic plantation legend, unsure of what he would find, a woman walked by his table and stopped to look over his shoulder at his book.

That's all obsevation, an onlooker explaining what they see. Boring. Now I will try to edit it into showing, by bringing you into his head.

Cooper waded through page after page of historic plantations hoping for a clue that would get him into the Creator's manor house unobserved. An unexpectedly pleasant scent made him stop reading to sniff the air. The slight rustling behind him confirmed his hunch of a woman looking over his shoulder at his book.

(Now if they were dogs, they'd do a little butt sniffing and their tails would tell us if they were into each other or not. Ah, the simplicity of dogs!)

So what do you think? Any suggestions for helping us Show instead of Tell?


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

The second version is great! And we had a dog who'd leave bruises with his tail.

Charity Bradford said...

Woot! Great improvements. My favorite way to try showing more instead of telling is to hang out at the Bookshelf Muse. Just reading what "anxiety" looks and feels like sparks my own ways of describing it.

Allison said...

This made me smile. After spending time with my brother's adorable dog, I started wishing people had tails! It'd make communication so much easier.

Christine Rains said...

The second version is much better. It would be easier if we had tails, wouldn't it? *LOL*

Have a great weekend! :)

Unknown said...

Tara this is the only way I could find to get a hold of you. It's regarding the "Letter to your 10-year-old Self". I need to know if you want to be credited with your full name as Tara Tyler or just keep the sign off as "Love, Old Tara".
Please get back to me a.s.a.p. at
Thank you!

kjmckendry said...

I think that would make a cute story...people somehow growing tails and not being able to hide their emotions. It would of course lead to all sorts of hilarious scenes!

M Pax said...

Dogs are fab. The neighbor's dog always wants to get in my car. He's cute.

Your showing is better. Juicier and enticing.

E. Arroyo said...

Getting into the POV's head adds flavor. Nice.

mshatch said...

I have a goofy dog that looks similar to yours :)

Definitely liked that second version better :)

Cathy said...

Great lesson for showing not telling. Love the puppy, what a face!!

Christa Desir said...

Nice example and really great rewrite. I was right there with him.
Cute 85 pound puppy. :)

Tara Tyler said...

Alex, thanks! Comet has broken many a glass =)

Charity, thank you! I will have to check out the bookshelf muse!

Allison, remember "Shallow Hal?"

Christine, a whole new appendage to pierce and decorate! you too!

Nina, sent =)

Kathy, maybe I'll write a screenplay!

Mary, depends on the dog! they have varying personalities, but most are good natured =) and thanks!

Chandara - thank you! and thanks for following =)

Marcy, goofy is the word and thank you!

Thanks, Cathy!

Christa, appreciate it =)

Theresa Milstein said...

I was scared of dogs as a kid. My daughter loves one, so we may get one next year. But it will have to be on the small side. No 85-lb puppies!

Nice example of show.

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