Sunday, January 5, 2014

Blank Screens

Image courtesy of Wikimedia

Imagine you’re at the movies. You’ve settled into your seat with popcorn and a cold drink. The lights dim, the sound comes up. And there’s a blank screen. After a few seconds, a scrawny guy  walks out in front of  the screen. He looks out into the audience, eyes magnified with glasses too large for his face. He points to the left corner of the screen. “That’s where Ida lives,” he says. He begins to tell you all about Ida. She’s twenty five years old. Her father was an engineer. She has dark hair and green eyes. Last Tuesday, she wore a red blouse to work.
Then he points to the right side of the screen. “That’s where Herman lives.”  He goes on to tell you Herman has a crew cut and likes to wear khakis. He’s in the CIA, but the neighbors don’t know that, they think he works at the Post Office.
How long would you stay to watch?  My guess is not very long. It’s not likely that listening to someone tell you about the movie is what you went to the movies for. You came to see a movie, to experience the actors talking, to be captivated by the action and awed by the scenery.
Readers, too, want to experience the story. They want to hear characters. They want to see the surroundings. They want to experience the action.
This, in a nutshell, is the reason for that old adage—Show don’t tell.  As writers, it’s our job to give readers an experience. Let them see, hear, and feel what’s going on. Show them, so they can see it firsthand. 

'Til next Time


Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Good example.

The best writing involves the reader in the story. Think of all the housework that won't get done, and then disrupt them and charm them.

Big Mike said...

Very well put, Ute. Great example on a topic so many newbies have difficulty with.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)

Ute Carbone said...

Thanks Guys. I live to disrupt housework, Julie! :)

Liz Fountain said...

Nice example, and good timing as I'm working on exactly that issue in my MS. Thanks!