Thursday Thoughts – Universal Show and Tell

Bear with me here. It’s a new year and as I want to write more this year, I’m attempting to get in that frame of mind. This means that I want to get back to the messages from the Universe that either relate to writing or makes me think of writing. One of the catch phrases all beginning writers get thrown at them is, “Show, don’t tell!” If they are lucky, some experienced writer or teacher will explain what that means. The thing is, there’s a time to tell and a time to show, and now I’m humming the old Byrds’ song, “Turn, Turn, Turn” and I want to sing the chorus. Ahem. I will refrain. Trust me. Now, where was I? Oh, yeah. showing and telling. This is what the Big U has to say:

Anyone watching you, Silver?

Good. This is a double-secret exercise.

Pretend you just received a phone call with wonderful, mind-blowing, life-changing news!

As you put down the receiver, your arms fly up over your head with joy. Pumping fists, then waving palms, like you just crossed a finish line before throngs of adoring fans. You cover your face with your hands trying to contain the euphoria, but it doesn’t work, so you reach for the sky again while shaking your head in disbelief. You’re grinning, crying, and just so happy! YES! Life is awesome and you feel so grateful!

Got it?

Now if someone catches you doing this, just tell ’em it was your pet psychic who called, and they’ll forget everything they just saw.

The Universe
© ®

Show me what you want to feel, Silver, create the feeling within yourself, and I’ll then orchestrate the circumstances, however outlandish, that will help you feel it again and again and again.

Do you see what the Universe did there? It showed you the action. It set the scene. Then it created the action, paining a word picture of “you” doing that action. And I’m betting you *saw* yourself throwing your hands up and doing the whold Julia Roberts’ “Pretty Woman” woot-woot-woot. The takeway here is to actually picture the action in your imagination before writing it. That way, you have a guide to go be. Y’all know I write a lot of action scenes–fights, shoot-outs, etc. I’ve been known to act out the scene physically. Sword fight? Yup. In the middle of my office. The same with fistfights. I throw a mean right jab and left uppercut. I own weapons. On rare occasions, I will pull out one, MAKING SURE IT IS UNLOADED!!!!, and I will “mime” loading, handling, pointing/aiming, and pulling the trigger. I remember the feel the of kick in my hand or against my shoulder (pistol vs. rifle/shotgun), the tangy-sharp smell of the gunpowder, and the powdery-dry taste of the wisp of smoke created. I listen for the sound the bullet or shell (shotgun) makes as it hits the target. Metallic ping. Muffled slap (wood). Thwack against brick, stone, or concrete. Or the sploosh of contact with a body. Want to slap somebody? Well, your character, anyway. Slap yourself. Not hard. It stings. But hard enough to feel it–both in your hand and arm and on your cheek. Now describe what it felt like. Trust me, it’s not easy peasy but your readers will be far more invested in your story than if you say, “She slapped him.”

How often, as writers, have we been told to incorporate the five senses in our despription? A lot, for sure! This is the way to draw your readers in, to snag their attention and lead them to use their own imaginations to “see” the scene rather than just reading it. Show = See. But to do that, you have to see it first. And feel it. True story, I was writing a hospital scene where one of my characters–a strong manly man–teared up because he might lose the love of his life to cancer. I’ll admit, I rewrote that damn scene until I made myself cry. I was elated when I heard from readers that I’d made them cry too. Score! Home run! Goal! You, the writer, have to feel it before you can sell it to your audience. It’s easy to kill of a beloved or unexpected character to pull on their heartstrings but to do it based on a scene based entirely on the emotions and the actions of the characters feeling those emotions? That’s way tougher.

Anyway. Pretty sure y’all know this but I thought I’d toss a reminder out there with my own thoughts. And readers, we do it all for you, so please don’t feel excluded. I’m hoping that you gain some understanding to the art and craft of writing, along with the process used to create characters and stories for y’all to enjoy. Because when it comes right down to the nitty-gritty, y’all are the reason we do this. Any questions?


About Silver James

I like walks on the wild side and coffee. Lots of coffee. Warning: My Muse runs with scissors. Author of several award-winning series--Moonstruck, Nightriders MC, The Penumbra Papers, and Red Dirt Royalty (Harlequin Desire) & other books! Purveyor of magic, mystery, mayhem and romance. Lots and lots of romance.
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