My subject today is one you’ve seen in countless blog posts. But because it’s such a good one, (oldie but goodie) it will be the inspiration for my Wednesday Prompts and Inspirations.
Drum roll, please….
Show don’t Tell (With a twist)
I’m going to introduce this topic via the television.
When we’re watching a movie, clues are given to let us know what sort of scene we’re entering into. One of these clues is the music. (Wouldn’t it be great if our novels could come with a built-in sound track?) No dramatic scene was ever accompanied by a soothing, dreamy melody. The music swells as the pounding beat mimics approaching, heavy footsteps. An ominous sensation falls around us. Our pulse quickens as we try to prepare ourselves for a sudden scare.
The way a scene is lit also adds to the feeling being established. (Another movie technique we have limited access to in our writing.) Harsh, contrasty lighting adds drama, while soft, diffused lighting is perceived as feminine and romantic.
But here is something we, as writers, have complete access to… Grab your remote control and turn off the volume on your imaginary television set–completely.
Let’s watch the characters interact as we study their facial expressions and analyze their body language to discern which emotions are portrayed.
We watch a man and a woman discuss something. Their faces appear calm. The woman holds a bouquet of roses. She gazes at the red blooms and offers a gentle, thankful smile. Then the man shoves his hands deep in his coat pockets and shifts his feet. While he speaks, his eyes dart everywhere except to the woman he just gave the bouquet to. The woman listens as she studies the man’s face. Her joyous expression is traded for one of contempt. Her eyes narrow, her fingers tighten on the bouquet, and BAM! She strikes the man’s chest with the flowers not once, but twice. A flurry of rose petals shower the air, her tears stream, she drops the flowers, turns, and runs.
And not once did I say she was angry, nor did I say the man was nervous.
Stepping away from the television, let us suppose we are putting on a play, and the director tells us to be angry when the curtain goes up.
Each and every one of us will bring something unique to that scene. I might stomp my feet and scowl. Someone else might hurl a vase of flowers against the cardboard backdrop, a child might kick and scream. In order for every reader to see the scene the way we envision it, we must show them what we want them to see.
For today’s Prompt’s and Inspiration, watch your favorite DVD with the volume turned off.
Write out a scene without using the words: happy, sad, exhausted, curious, angry, elated, etc…
And, if you feel like “showing” part of what you wrote, scroll to the top of this post and click ‘comment’ to share.