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06 January 2010

The Magic of Show

"Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass."
~ Anton Chekhov

That quote captured me, wrapped me around it's fingers and spread me open like the night sky.

"Show me."

How many times have our critique partners, writing group leaders, mentors said that? My writing mentor always said, "Write with your five senses." All of them. Leave not a one behind. Don't tell me dinner smelled good. Show me how Calvin salivated as the fragrance of baked turkey and ham flitted across the room, how his stomach rumbled in embarrassment at his hunger, how he had to rub his eyes just to make sure he wasn't dreaming. Don't tell me Melissa cried. Show me her streaming tears, her blood shot eyes, the blanket clutched to her chest as he lays, balled up in bed all day, staring at the brick wall. Don't tell me the mountain was majestic. Show me the snow capped peaks, the rocky crags, the steep crevices, the gaping mouths and popping eyes of the mountaineers as they stand atop it's peak.

"Show me."

Remember show and tell? I loved it! I always brought something weird or odd because, well, that's just the way I am. If I had only told someone I had a plastic snail that would open, with use of a large, pink skeleton key, to be used for storage, they may have shrugged, nodded, said, "yeah, that's nice". But I took it in, showed them how it worked. "Oohs and ahs" abound when you show.

There are somethings you can't really tell. How much Bill loves Carol. How much Eleanor loves Emily Dickenson. How much three year old William loves his new puppy. Sometimes words aren't enough, especially for love. Show me how Bill brushes the hair from Carol's eyes. Show me how he holds her hand as she gets up to walk for the first time after knee surgery. Show me how Eleanor will sit for hours pouring over Dickenson, how she smiles, subtly, a knowing smile, sips tea and snuggles under her blanket, perfectly content. Show me how William struggles to carry the puppy everywhere, how he tumbles about the yard with it, how he lets it give him slobbery kisses right smack dab on the lips.

Show, don't tell. Telling has it's place. Sure, we need telling. But it lacks magic. You can tell me Egypt is intoxicating all you want but I'd much, much rather be shown the pyramids, the market place, the temples, the Nile.

I always knew India was a mind-bogglingly different country. I'd been told as much. But until I saw it, smelled it, touched it, tasted it - until it has been shown to me I didn't really know it.

Hmmm, perhaps that's the key after all. Tell me about a book, and I know about it. Show me the book, let me devour it, and I'll know it.

Happy Wednesday,
Jen

PS: Here are two articles by author Donald Miller about reorganizing your life into stories rather than goals. I thought they were appropriate for the new year. Enjoy!

Living a Good Story, an Alternative to New Years Resolutions
Living a Meaningful Story Pt. 2: Creating Memorable Scenes

30 comments:

willow said...

I'm fascinated about the concept of reorganizing your life into stories. Now I'm off to click on the link...

Karen Walker said...

These are wonderful examples of showing versus telling. Thanks,Jen. It's an area I need much work in.
Karen

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

Woohoo!!! India!!! :0)

I love showing well. I hate it when I realize I've told way too much. But I love being even more creative. Showing and I have a love/hate relationship.

ElanaJ said...

I love that quote. And it's so so true. Showing is always better than telling, though telling is needed sometimes.

DG at Diary of a Mad Bathroom said...

Great post. Showing is all well and good, but showing well is magical. You are a show master.

Link clickin time. . .

The Blonde Duck said...

That's something we all need to remember! Thanks for the tip!

brown robin said...

Wow. I've finally taken the time to come over and have a looksy. Such wonderful writing on your part... very inspiring! Thank you too, friend.

Ratty said...

Showing something happening like this is one of the main things I've been trying to work on. I forget to do it much too often. I'm glad to have this as a reminder.

Tamika: said...

You have a natural gift for showing Jen! You captured me with each description.

Thanks for the links!

French Kissed said...

Great post...the more senses that are appealed to the more compelling something becomes. I use the "appeal to as many of the senses as possible" approach in my photo styling and home decor. One dimensional anything is flat and boring. ~jermaine~

Mary Aalgaard said...

So, how are Bill and Eleanor doing? I was pulled into the story. I love images of "old" love. Thanks for the links. I've connected to Don Miller, now, too. Loved "Blue Like Jazz."

Helen Ginger said...

Great examples of showing instead of telling. It's a difficult concept, often, to new writers. They write, He loved his mother, and in their minds they see his face, his expression, his joy at seeing his mother, and they can't seem to grasp that the reader doesn't see these same things when they read, He loved his mother.

Helen
Straight From Hel

Flourchild said...

I hope you have a wonderful day. Thanks for sharing the quote!

My Farmhouse Kitchen said...

Thanks Jen, and thanks for the encouragement...I really feel lost..I'll just keep plugging along, I guess...

Love this post..wonderful.
more later, dear friend

love,
kary
xxx

Elspeth Antonelli said...

Show don't tell. I'm doing my best!

Elspeth

Shannon O'Donnell said...

I have spent the last 20 minutes devouring this blog. You write beautifully. Showing vs. telling is a key to writing well. I love Donald Miller. :-)

Glynis said...

I love the quote Jen! I must make more of an effort, I will look at my MS and see what I can do.

Lizzie said...

Jen, I thoroughly enjoyed this post. You had my attention from the immediate start to the finish. My heart is warmed and my mind is moving in a thousand diff direcctions.

Happy Thursday to YOU! :)

Mmm said...

Jen, great post. i agree with everyone and too want to go check out the links.

Debra @ Common Ground said...

Wonderful lesson on the written word. I need to keep it all "there" when I write. Loved hearing this concept!
Debra

Carla Gade said...

What a beautiful post, Jen. I love the way you write. It is so beautiful. You showed me.

Jennifer Shirk said...

great topic!

will check out those articles. :)

Jen Chandler said...

Thanks for these wonderful comments, guys! I was a bit shy in posting this. The thought "so, you think you can actually post about showing and really show?" kept running through my mind. What a relief to hear from all you wonderful folk that I got it right :)

Jen Chandler said...

brown robin: thanks for stopping by :) It's always a joy to swing by your place.

Jen Chandler said...

Mary Aalgaard: You know, when I told my husband about this post he said he thought at first they were all real characters that I'd created before! Nope, I just pulled them out of a hat for this post. Now, of course, all I can think is, "hmmm, maybe I should tell their stories!" :) I'll keep you posted if anything more happens with Bill and Eleanor.

Jen Chandler said...

Shannon, I'm flattered you spent 30 minutes here! Thank you, very much :) I hope I can continue to keep you coming back!

Jen Chandler said...

Lizzie, you're too kind! Often times, I find my own mind running in so many directions after I post. As if I need any other writing ideas. I am so distracted as it is!

Mary Aalgaard said...

Yay! about Bill & Eleanor. I was just wondering what they'd had for breakfast...

Jen Chandler said...

To Mary: Bill had scrambled eggs with toast (heavy on the butter) and Eleanor had a boiled egg served in a darling little blue egg cup with scones and lemon curd.

Disclaimer: I did not cook for Bill and Eleanor. Sigh. I would have loved to dine with them!

Mary Aalgaard said...

Oh, thank you, Jen. I imagine he tried to read the paper but she needed to discuss whether they should take that cruise they'd always been dreaming about.