Jami’s Tip on Writing - SHOW ME THE STORY
As writers we face numerous challenges when we’re sharing our story. There is the hurdle of keeping track of body parts, the maze of active versus passive verbs, and the one I find myself facing down with a worn tip of ink, the treacherous world of show-don't-tell. You all know this pit of despairing darkness, it's the one where someone reads your work then says, "Why are you telling me this, why can't you just show me?" Every writer faces this harsh enemy armed only with a small writing instrument and sheer guts. Some carry a broader defense in the form of a laptop, but still the enemy is fierce and determined to leave you shuddering in its wake.
There are thousands (seriously Google it) of articles out there on how to work through the challenges of showing versus telling, but I'm an orbitally fixated person so I’ll share an example of enlightenment seared into my brain by ever helpful editors. The beast of Show-Don’t-Tell requires stronger, more active verbs, closer points of view, and vivid descriptions, which will trap your readers in your story.
We’ll use a passage that won’t land me on a hit list, as the author and I share mental headroom. This is from my first book, SHADOW’S EDGE from 2011.
The original read:
Raine moved like lightening to catch the little black remote before it hit the ground. Eden gave a frustrated shriek and went after Ryder's face with her long nails, scoring three long scratches before her could stop her.
Ryder cursed, yanking the doctor's arms behind her back, forcing her to face forward. Raine didn't spare Eden a glance, but moved in to the cell. She could feel Cheveyo coming up behind her. Using her magic, Raine called up a small illuminating ball of light to chase back the darkness from the cell.
Huddled in the corner was a naked Gavin. Fresh cuts, seeping burns, and trickles of blood mixed with sweat-drenched, tangled hair made macabre abstracts over the shaking arms, wrapped around drawn up legs. Seeing him like this broke something inside her. Furious tears burned the back of her eyes. Ignoring them, she motioned for Cheveyo to stay out.
The enlightened minds of my editors pointed out the following issues with this small passage. For example, in the very first line, saying she moved like lightening is telling, not showing. Let’s move on to the usage of verbs. Picking the right verb makes a world of difference. Action scenes demand strong verbs, use them but don't -ing them.
With the light of knowledge searing my brain, here is the re-write:
Raine sprang forward and caught the little black remote before it hit the ground. Eden shrieked and raked Ryder’s face with her long nails, scoring three long gashes before he could stop her.
He cursed and yanked her arms behind her back, forcing her to face forward. Without sparing her a glance, Raine dashed into the cell with Cheveyo right behind her. She summoned a small ball of light to chase back the darkness.
Gavin huddled in the corner, naked. Fresh cuts, seeping burns, and trickles of blood, threw macabre abstracts over his shaking arms, which were wrapped around his drawn-up legs. His sweat-drenched, tangled hair curtained his face. Seeing him like this broke something inside her. Furious tears burned the back of her eyes. Ignoring them, she motioned for Cheveyo to stay out.
Are you on the edge of your seat yet? Want to turn the page and see what happens next? This is the beauty of showing versus telling. It's worth every drop of blood you sweat as you transfer those voices in your head to paper.
Excerpt from “Shadow’s Edge”Feeling his presence behind her she stepped through the doors and reached for her jacket. Putting it on, she turned around only to come up short. He stood inches away.
“You can run and hide, Raine.” His eyes were dark. “But, I’m a damn good hunter.”
His challenge sparked her pride. She shocked them both by reaching up and threading her fingers through his thick hair. Running her nails against his scalp, visible chills cascaded down his arms. Using the velvet strands as a handle she brought his head down for a kiss. Not some wimpy kiss either. If she was doing this, she was doing it right. It may be her only chance.
Using the tip of her tongue she traced his lips, startled at how soft they were. When he parted them for her, she took advantage of the opportunity, sliding her tongue inside. Closing her eyes, she felt her body respond, arching closer to his heat. It was like moving into the warm sunshine after standing in the cool shadows. Desire moved under her skin, warming places she hadn’t known existed.
His taste, like warm sherry and dark spices, invaded her, making her breath catch. She lost herself in the moment, with this man.
And she wanted to stay lost.
The unfamiliar thought jerked her eyes open, and she found his green ones focused solely on her, dark with arousal. Seeing such a totally male expression on his face brought an unexpected flare of pride.
With her body fully pressed against his, there was no escaping how in the moment he was. Slowly, she ended the kiss. Her fingers relaxed, releasing his hair, letting the strands slide over her skin before moving her hands to his shoulders. He truly was a beautiful man.
Then, because it was almost too serious, she leaned up and dropped a light kiss on the tip of his nose. Catching his startled grin, she pulled out of his arms.
Her voice was unsteady, almost husky, “I wouldn’t call it running, Gavin.” Turning on watery legs, she walked down the hall to the front door, while every hormone screamed for her to stay.
He followed, reaching above her to hold the door open as she stepped onto his front porch. “Then what would you call it?”
She turned and met his eyes, her gaze as serious as her voice, “Trying to decide if you’re worth the risk.”
His eyes flared briefly, but he said nothing. She strode down the steps and into her SUV. As she drove away, she couldn’t help biting her trembling lips as the unique taste that was Gavin swarmed through her bloodstream.
Looking back, she could still see him, in her rearview mirror, framed in the open doorway.
If you want to nab your copy of SHADOW’S EDGE, it’s FREE for a limited time at any of the following booksellers:Nook: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Shadows-Edge-The-Kyn-Kronicles-Book-1/Jami-Gray/e/2940013239838
Black Opal Books: http://www.blackopalbooks.com/shop-our-store/authors/jami-gray
If you look for her, you could find her at one of these locations:Website: www.JamiGray.com
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/JamiGrayUFWriter
Amazon Author Page: http://amzn.com/e/B006HU3HJI
Thanks Jami, for dropping by and sharing that great marketing tip.Don’t forget to check back next week for another tip or tweak.