When you submit that first copy you worked so hard on, the reply you most likely receive is:
Show me, don’t tell me.
So what does this mean? Show, don’t tell refers to the technique of description using experience and emotion instead of words. This requires the use of specifics.
The Write Practice explains this as the use of details. The first example used describes a plot. The second example expands the plot. Simply put, it is not enough to just tell the reader what is happening, you have to show what the environment is. Immerse the reader and draw their attention. Every specific detail is a point of attachment, a way to help the viewer relate to the scenario.
A personal example I’d like to use is John going to the store.
a) John goes into the shop to buy a pair of jeans. He selects a pair in blue that fits him perfectly and proceeded to make a payment.
b) John visits the local store to try on a new pair of jeans. He had long been wanting to throw away his old khakis because they’d barely fit him anymore. He walks into the bustling store and skimmed through the sections till he finally reached the one with a variety of men’s jeans. His eyes locked on one in blue. The attendant notices his interest and removed it from the shelf. He thanked her and went into the dressing room. After a satisfying grin in the mirror, John walked out of the store a little lighter in the pocket but a lot happier around the waist.
This is how I would like to contrast telling and showing.
Chapter 7: Community
The meds ran out before the food. Agony grows each night as impulse overtakes sense. Sarah would wake to find me staring at the doorway. The occasional footstep and thump on the door stopped me from sleeping. Restlessness grew.
She wasn’t doing too well herself. Before our phones ran out of battery, she had attempted to reach her mum with no success. She would stare at a family picture from time to time. Sometimes it gets worst. The lack of food and the growing unease made us grumpy. We tried not to argue and managed a small victory.
“Maybe we should try Walgreens”
Sarah looked at me surprised.
“We can’t just sit here forever.”
“Do you hear what’s out there? Have you lost it?”
“Sarah, I mean it. We need to go out sooner or later, why not do it while we still have the energy.”
She looked down at her hands. There laid the picture of her parents. I had learned to regret not printing out a single photo of my dad. I was fortunate enough to have a 5 minute call before it was too late. He was overseas, somewhere in Bristol attending a seminar. Things over the Pacific seem to be calmer. News had spread but not the sickness. At that time, no one seems to believed it. I wonder if it’s still the same now. Where could dad be right now.
“Alright, lets go tomorrow.”
“Oh, I was thinking of going alone. You know, quick in and out.”
“I’m not staying here by myself. If you’re going, we’re both going.”
She had a point. What if something goes wrong, what if I can’t get back. Maybe it would be best if we both took the risk together.
The morning came in 2 hours. We managed a small nap before getting up and packing our bags for the worst. Each bag pack had a small amount of snacks and space for things at Walgreens. Just as I slipped into a fresh pair of socks, a siren blared out from the streets. I quickly remove the chairs and table blockading the door to reach the knob.
The door swung open and the sound grew louder. I looked out of the complex window to find a police car zooming by. A couple of people were running after it. Only, they didn’t look very… human. I looked down and saw the same disfigured bodies walking away from the complex and following the sound of the siren.
I turned around and a slap came straight onto my cheek.
“What was that for?”
“There might be things out here.”
“The police car drew them away. It’s fine now. Sorry.”
We proceeded cautiously down the stairs to the fifth floor. Suddenly, the floor creaked beneath us and we both froze. Sarah started walking back up but I signaled for her to hold still. The creak grew in distance as we wait till it fainted back into silence. I grabbed Sarah’s hand and lead her into Eric’s room.
“What are we doing here?”
“There’s a fire escape in this room.”
I had always found it silly since Eric introduced me to the wooden stairs leading from his window out into the back alley. What good could a flammable fire escape do in an emergency. Right now, I thank the gods that it was there.
As I retreated the blinds and set my fingers on the window, Sarah grabbed my hand and pulled it away. She pointed at a moving figure down the stairs.