Show v. Tell, TMI & Hanes Her Way Control Top Briefs

Currently, I am reading my big-brown-doe-eyed-eyeballs out. I’m reading for my crit goup and beta reading and blog stalking (where I read passages of other aspiring authors’ manuscripts), and as a result, my head is hurting from all the details. As writers, we are told and told and told that we must engage the reader, draw them in, use description to enhance their experience, and let me just say that an awful lot of writers are taking that to heart. I say “knock it off already!”

My lovely writer friend, Charissa Weaks, is running a reoccurring post on Show v Tell at her site where I join a few other writers in giving examples of each. She posts a new picture at random each week and we chime in. Its fun, and it keeps my mind working. I like that. But here’s my issue about all the showing: Writers are showing me Wahaaaaay more than I need to see. Yeah, it’s very important to know your characters, but there are some things that can and should stay between the character and her creator. Please, only share with me what I need to know.

Let me give you an example. I know that my MC in Death By Chocolate, Ruby Russell, neurotic housewife extraordinaire, prefers Hanes Her Way Control Top Briefs. You don’t need to know that. Not once is this information imperative, useful or interesting to you, my reader.  So I don’t mention it. It helps me to know how she will behave and why (she fears others will discover her penchant for unattractive undergarments) but I NEVER tell the reader anything about her underpants. It has nothing to do with her story.

Here’s another example. My attempt to show you (sorry- guess I feel like examples today).

Polly Puritan crept along the banister towards the rustling sound, certain that each timid move would be her last.

OK – she’s going to die. “Turn back Polly Puritan! Dial 9-1-1!” We are focused on the action and already hoping that her cat is just sleeping on some loose paperwork. Whatever the sound is, I am already ready to know already!!! Aren’t you?

Or, you can SHOW me a ton of other stuff until I get angry.

Polly Puritan wore a long sleeved flannel nightgown, given to her by her grandmother. It was warm to wear on cool nights and small blue green sparks accompanied her along the banister as the static electricity formed between her gown and the plush green carpeting beneath her bare feet. The rustling sound was behind the empty bedroom door at the end of the long hallway, and muffled by the thickness of the heavy oak barrier. Polly was certain that each new step brought her closer to her doom, and she began to recall childhood memories of the love that once filled her house. Her mother and father would miss her greatly and she them.I will never forget you grandma. Mom, take care of Daddy for me. I hope the stain comes out of the carpet for you.

WHO CARES????? TELL ME WHAT’S MAKING THE SOUND ALREADY!!!! EE GADS! **Throws the book into the nearest wall and curses Polly Puritan for her mind numbing internal dialog and hyper vigilance regarding wardrobe and carpeting.** YEEOWSA.

Lesson: Every single word in your manuscript should be propelling the story forward. That’s it. FOR-WARD.Every word great or small should serve a purpose. And yes, even world building can be succinct. You just need to know what the reader needs to know and deliver that. Also, know what only you need to know an use that to help tell the story, but puh-lease keep it to yourself and for goodness sakes, throw out your flannel night gowns. Let’s be serious people, there’ no reason for ugly bedclothes. Buy a blanket.

8 comments to Show v. Tell, TMI & Hanes Her Way Control Top Briefs

  • Always good advice. The more we can say, in fewer words, the better the writing!

  • Julie Anne Lindsey

    Joanne! Yes! Less words, more succinct! I love racing through a novel to the action or the first kiss or wherever its headed, but getting hung up on the color of the sky and cloud formation can really bring me down LOL! Thank you for your comment!

  • Valerie Haight

    Maybe all I need is a Julie filter in my head to keep the descriptive stuff to a minimum…do you market those? LOL!
    Seriously, the line between what I know and what you need to know as a reader gets blurred so easily!!! So to be safe, I put it ALL down. Guess that’s just another one of those things to train my mind to look for. Thanks!

  • My rule of thumb is to SHOW emotion. And less is almost always more.

    And, THANK YOU, Julie, for choosing me as this week’s winner!
    ☼ You’ve made my day a little brighter.☀

    Love,
    Lola

  • Julie Anne Lindsey

    Valerie! It is so easy to get bogged down! I slow my manuscripts to a halt with added words “then” “had” “that” I am so guilty! This is why trading pages is so good for a writer! We can see those things in someone else’s material and learn to look out for it in our own. Reading is very very good for the writer! BTW – I am always so thankful to be reading anything by Miss Valerie Haight!

  • Julie Anne Lindsey

    Lola! I just finished addressing your new book from Karen Harper! I hope that you will LOVE it! Thank you for your comment and I LOVE your blog! Will get a link up tonight on my contest page (in the win bar) for you!

  • Julie,
    As I sit her in my green leather chair, slippered feet up in the pull-out portion and my remote control nearby, and my laptop nestled on the foam-stuffed pillow under it on my lap, I contemplate how to word my agreement with the points in your blog about – getting to the point.
    I put my slim finger on my cheek next to my full, pouting lips and think. Julie’s right…wayyy tooo much info!!!
    Mimi
    Mimi

  • Mimi! I love this comment! I’m LOL. Alway always making me smile! Thank you!!

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