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Let me show you what I mean…

I promised to share the agony of editing with you, so sit down, strap in and hang on.  We’re now heading into the treacherous world of show-don’t-tell. You all know this pit of despairing darkness, it’s the one where someone reads your work then says, “Why are you telling me this, why can’t you just show me?”  Every writer faces this harsh enemy armed only with a small writing instrument and sheer guts.  Some carry a broader defense in the form of a laptop, but still the enemy is fierce and determined to leave you shuddering in its wake. 

There are thousands (seriously google it) of articles out there on how to work through the challenges of showing versus telling, but I’m an orbitally fixated person (see previous blog) so I’m just going to share an example of enlightment that was seared into my brain.

Here’s the original:

Raine moved like lightening to catch the little black remote before it hit the ground. Eden gave a frustrated shriek and went after Ryder’s face with her long nails, scoring three long scratches before her could stop her.

 Ryder cursed, yanking the doctor’s arms behind her back, forcing her to face forward.  Raine didn’t spare Eden a glance, but moved in to the cell. She could feel Cheveyo coming up behind her. Using her magic, Raine called up a small illuminating ball of light to chase back the darkness from the cell.

Huddled in the corner was a naked Gavin. Fresh cuts, seeping burns, and trickles of blood mixed with sweat-drenched, tangled hair made macabre abstracts over the shaking arms, wrapped around drawn up legs.

The enlightened minds of my editors pointed out the following issues with this small passage. For example in the very first line, saying she moved like lightening is telling, not showing.  Then on to the usage of verbs. Picking the right verb makes a world of difference. Action scenes demand strong verbs, use them but don’t -ing them (will face this little critter in the next blog).  With the light of knowledge searing my brain, here is the re-write:

Raine sprang forward and caught the little black remote before it hit the ground. Eden shrieked and  raked Ryder’s face with her long nails, scoring three long gashes before he could stop her.

He cursed and yanked her  arms behind her back, forcing her to face forward. Without sparing her a glance, Raine dashed into the cell with Cheveyo right behind her. She summoned a small ball of light to chase back the darkness from the cell.

Gavin was huddled in the corner, naked. Fresh cuts, seeping burns, and trickles of blood, mixed with sweat-drenched, tangled hair threw macabre abstracts over his shaking arms, which were wrapped around his drawn-up legs.

See how much better that reads? Plus it paints a more vivid picture of what’s happening for the reader.  This is the beauty of showing versus telling. It’s worth every drop of blood you sweat as you transfer those voices in your head to paper. 

So next week, I’ll move on to passive versus active.  Oh ye old English lessons. Dust them off, it’s time to go back to school!

Wicked

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