Learn how to show versus tell your stories
We live in an age of abundant information. Managing this information is one of the challenges of our time. In writing our life stories there are many resources we can draw on apart from our own memory and those of relatives and friends. Breath Life Into Your Life Story is a book written by Dawn and Morris Thurston. Its sub-title is How to Write a Story People Will Want to Read. Tonight in my third Community Education Class on Life Story Writing we will take for our lesson chapter two The Power of Showing.
The Thurstons, a husband and wife team, explain how many stories seem flat and monotonous because their authors do too much telling because when you summarize and generalize, you suck the life out of your stories.
To show rather than tell is rather like writing a commentary on a movie scene you are watching. You will describe the scene, the action, the words the character speaks, the tone of their voice, their mannerisms, the characters, what they are wearing etc. Your goal here is to draw your reader into the scene so that they feel they are there themselves. Your words become a bridge connecting their emotions to yours. They feel what you feel, hear what you hear and see what you see. As the Thurstons point out, readers will then make their own determinations and judgements concerning the people and events of your life based on their own observations. You won’t even need to tell them!
‘Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader–not the fact that it is raining but the feeling of being rained upon’ ~ E.L. Doctorow
Try writing a descriptive scene where you are caught in a rainstorm.
Showing also makes your stories more believable. Here is an example from the Thurstons book:
Telling: Some people considered Uncle Wilhelm an eccentric.
Showing: I arrived at my Uncle Wilhelm’s cabin wearing my paint smeared cut-offs, torn t-shirt and battered tennis shoes ready for our hike up the mountainside. Wilhelm appeared at the door looking like a Teutonic dandy in his tan lederhosen, green embroidered shirt, red scarf, brown knee socks and high topped hiking boots. I was not at all surprised when he picked up a carved oak walking stick and, after dramatically filling his lungs with the mountain ai,r announced, “Let us depart for the high country!”
Take up the challenge, show versus tell your readers by: ‘…breathing life into your characters, create vivid settings, commnicating powerful emotions and convincing the reader what you say is true.’ ~ Dawn and Morris Thurston