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.
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