I know writers love actual examples, and today I’ve picked a passage of writing where there’s a lot of telling. What we’re going to do is tweak it to visually “show” our reader instead. This is written in 3rd Person from the heroine’s POV, and as you’re reading see if you can spot the areas that can be fixed to “show” rather than tell.
Let me set the scene. Marie’s father is involved in the mob, and Jack is an undercover cop tracking her to get to her father. Marie isn’t aware of who Jack is, but employs him as her bodyguard after shots are fired at her. Before too long, tensions explode between them, and Jack decides to take Marie out of town. It’s just the two of them in his truck, on a quiet road.
- Sitting next to Jack, his anger bouncing around the truck cab, Marie felt her emotions collide. This man drove her mad. One moment she felt like maybe they had a connection, then, bam, in the next breath he shattered it. He was dangerous on so many levels, and she was not up for more heartache.
It’s an intriguing passage, but I’m going to rewrite, taking into account that “showing emotions” strengthens a scene. Let’s show Jack’s anger and Marie’s tension in a way that draws the scene rather than tells. I also like how our hero and heroine are in a truck, but we could use the outside environment to add some flavor and bring the reader along for the ride.
- Sitting next to Jack in the truck’s cab, Marie felt the chill in the air as he released one puff of frosty breath after another. Her chest tightened, and she clawed her fingernails into the cold brown leather underneath her knees. One moment she felt like they had a connection, and in the next, bam, he shattered it. Their relationship was no different to the broken white markings on the road passing them by. Danger and mistrust lurked, for at the speed they were running, any heartache was more than she was up for.
I hope you get my meaning. In the rewrite the reader is “shown” through the scene in a way that’s missing in the first example. Be descriptive, and extend your writing. We have to draw a picture, as we see it from our own eyes.
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