Drop Your “Was.” & Give Us a Show.

My oh-so-fabulous critique group has made me slap my head once more. The beautiful and talented Christie Koester gave me a little advice and I LOVE IT. I’ve been told more often than I’ll admit that something in my stories “feels telly.” Sometimes I understand. Sometimes I have no idea how the reader thinks it’s telly. Christie gave me this advice: Find the sentences with “was” and tell it differently. Now, I’d already gone through cutting all forms of was + ing ex: was cooking became I cooked. I moved everything from passive to “Hey – I did that!” But, now she’s saying was is telly. Tell it differently and I was back using the find function again.

It was sheer brilliance.

Forget, “The room was dark and silent.” Nuh-uh. Cut the was and you HAVE to show it. No telly-telly. How on earth do you say it was dark? I mean, sometimes you just have to say, “Hey! The room was flipping dark, alright?” But what if you didn’t? What if instead you said “When I opened the door, I ran my fingers along the rough interior paneling in search of a light switch.” Eh? Are you thinking, Whoa doggy, It must be dark if she can’t see the switch on the wall right there in arms reach!? Yep. Sure you are. It’s Showy. and Showy = Good stuff.

I could go on telling you its a dark room all day and you’d never know I was TELLING you LOL. “I stubbed my toe on something when the switch failed to produce light. I stumbled over what felt like work boots and I headed toward a pinhole of light across the room, hoping I’d found a keyhole.”

Dark. Dark. Dark.

What do you think?

Was “The air cold?” or Did “I watch my breath rise and mingle with the steam from my coffee?” Maybe, I pulled the scarf more tightly around my neck, hoping my nose wasn’t as red as Rudolph’s, and the sniffles would hold off until I made it into my building. Yeah. It was cold, but how much more fun was that?

So, make a mental note. One more easy way to improve your show. Cut out some of the was-es and build the imagery with that opportunity instead.

8 comments to Drop Your “Was.” & Give Us a Show.

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