Always “Show” — But take care when you do

I’m a big fan of providing actual examples for writers, and today we’re going to tweak a paragraph of showing and to correct the visualization. You’ll see what I mean as you read, so let me draw the scene for you.

Luke is returning home to his father’s ranch after ten years away. Luke left on bad terms with his father, and his good friend, Susan, has convinced him to make amends. So Luke invites her along, and here they’ve just arrived.

  • Shaking himself, Luke opened his door and gritted his teeth as he walked around to Susan’s side. She joined him as he walked stiffly down the short sidewalk to the porch and stopped at the front door. Taking a deep breath he peered inside a window, seeing no lights except the front room light. He sensed the tension radiating from the house, as if he’d never left it, but it was time to go inside.

Above, we’re given a step by step of Luke’s arrival at his father’s ranch, but there’s something missing. Obviously the passage is being drawn out to provide anticipation, but it could be better. So, let’s rewrite and “show” more precisely. Let’s use the ranch’s location to add some flavor to the scene, because as writers, we have to bring our reader along on the journey.

  • Shaking his head, Luke gripped the truck’s door handle. With one push it clunked open and he set his booted feet on the gray gravel driveway. Gritting his teeth, he walked around to the passenger door where Susan stood, and he followed her gaze through the descending dark as she stared at the yellow weatherboard ranch house with its peeling paint and derelict porch. This was his childhood home, and it seemed nothing had changed, not even the deep breath he needed to take before setting off toward the front door. For within this house he’d felt only tension, and now it was time to go inside, and confront his father.

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. More description is added and the writing extended. And the last line regarding tension has been corrected. For someone can’t actually sense tension radiating from an object like a house. We get the meaning in the first example, that the tension exists, but it needs to be tied to who felt it and who gave it. If you read the rewrite, you’ll see there’s a slight change to reword and correct in that last line.

Now, if you’ve enjoyed this week’s post, then tune in next week for some more bite-sized tidbits. Simply check out the right-hand side panel, and enter your email address to “follow the blog.” If you want, also click “like” on my FB author page to the right. I’d love you to join me.

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9 thoughts on “Always “Show” — But take care when you do

  1. The second is also better paced and less plodding. *sigh* A few years ago I used to churn stuff like that out easily. I just returned to writing recently after a long hiatus and sadly I’m rusty and what I’m writing looks more like the first passage. Hopefully I’ll get back to where I was over time. Thank you for these helpful articles which are helping me to get back into shape again 🙂

    1. Hi Cadence. Bite-sized bits to help–and I’m so glad they are. I’m adding the pictures to help writers remember we have to put on paper what we see. You won’t be rusty for long, not when you’re actively soaking in information. Thank you so much for your lovely comment. 🙂

  2. Great post. This example is clear and so helpful! I’m brushing up on my “show not tell” and this is just perfect. Thank you.

  3. Shaking his head, Luke gripped the truck’s door handle. With one push it clunked open, and he set his booted feet on the gray gravel driveway. Gritting his teeth, he walked around to the passenger door where Susan stood, and he followed her gaze through the descending dark as she stared at the yellow weatherboard ranch house with its peeling paint and derelict porch. This was his childhood home, and it seemed nothing had changed, not even the deep breath he needed to take before setting off toward the front door. Within this house he’d felt only tension, and now it was time to go inside and confront his father.

    The second is better paced, but could still improve s little bit by altering its punctuation, as above. I’ve been working over a novel for a lady and doing a LOT of this. Independent sentences joined with ‘and’ require a comma before the ‘and’. Compound predicates that cannot stand alone are NOT separated by commas unless you have a list of 3 or more.)

    Okay. Now I want to know what happens next in the story!! 😀

  4. OMG, what’s a compound predicate? But thank you for the blog, I always find your blogs helpful. Also thank you for the explanation from Angela of when it’s permissible to put a comma before an ‘and’. That’s is extremely good to know.

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