Friday, February 29, 2008

TELLING Just Ain't SHOWMANSHIP by Show Maestro, Robert W. Walker

Rob Showing Off His Dog, Pongo

Here is the TELLIN’ of it:
At first, I wanted to scream at her, bang down her door. No, my senses gripped me – that would’ve only accomplished one thing, waking her folks. So instead, I stood there for over an hour, just kicking around. It was 2AM when I finally left.

* SAY WHAT? What happened between 12:30 and 2AM if this guy really “kicked” around outside her door for that long a stretch? THIS SHOW is not on the road or on the stage. It is a TELL all scene –especially the last two lines! Fill in that time with details, please. Never settle for less than three senses to be dragged in or triangulated; never settle for the general and the nebulous over the bedeviling job of getting in those details. Problem with TELLIN?—in the telling your story turns to cement, is too general, and too diffuse to SEE and FEEL, SMELL and TOUCH, and it leaves readers hungry for the details your narrator is withholding. It’s ultimately lazy writing, which often means poor revision techniques.

Don’t believe me? One of those folks who love the verb to be and sprinkles WASes and WEREs like rock salt on a driveway across your paragraph? Then take the same scene as it is rewritten below, wherein the actors are asked to do the telling, the feeling, the smelling, tasting, emoting, walking, and talking upon their stage and not some nebulous stage of the narrator’s mind. This is the key difference between dramatic writing and all other kinds of writing—and much of it hinges on dialogue. Let your characters do the walking and the talking, for what a character SAYS and DOES is who he is.

. . . Instead, I stood there for over an hour, just kicking around. Just standing there in the stillness of night, willing her back, believing she’d come back through that impenetrable door. When it became apparent she wasn’t going to rush back into my arms, I fantasized that she’d come running back to me at first sunlight, shouting, “I’ve reconsidered everything, and I’m just a bundle of nerves, and I’m so awfully sorry for all the hurtful things I said.” Sure. Like that was gonna happen.

NOTE * gotta take it to the max, Mark, live the moment, push the scene, use all the senses, including thought and inner turmoil. READ ON, sorry for the interruption:

Still, I stood outside her place, kicking at grass and dirt like a lost, stray animal for over an hour. SAT there watching the bugs swirl around the porch light, thinking about a word that Mrs. Piayja drilled into us in French class when I was a little younger than Polly was now—as the bugs attenuated the beam of light. First time in life I knew what the French teacher was talking about. And every now and then one of the illuminated mosquitoes landed back of my neck—using it as a landing strip. But I was too numb and desperate to feel their bites. (RATHER THAN the TELLing – Every now and then a mosquito would decide to land on my neck, but this didn’t bother me, because I was so numb and so desperate. OR: I was depressed. I was numb. I was desperate.)

* Now bear with me. Check this out:

Finally, I tried to pull myself together but failed miserably. ACTIVE: A perpetual cascading stream of tears clouded my vision. In fact, my eyes felt like the gnats and bugs had set up house in them. WAS PASSIVE: My vision was clouded by the perpetual cascading stream of tears, almost like the gnats and bugs from the light had invaded them.
For hours, I drove my car all around Wheeling, meandering down a plethora of streets, aimlessly searching for something or rather someone that I could never find.
At 5AM, I drove home to pick up my brother, Neil—my bloodshot eyes telling the story before I uttered a word.
“Not one damn word, Neil!” I warned him, prepared to slug him if he said the wrong thing.
“No problem, bro, but you wanna talk about I?” Obviously he saw that my world wasn’t right.
In a fragile state, I spilled my guts to Neil. Surprisingly, he listened. When I finished, Neil astonished me with this rather prophetic response. “George, I am truly sorry for you. But you’re a Mitchell and you’re my big brother. You ain’t about to go down without a fight. So tell me big brother, what’s your plan? Are you going down without a fight?”
“Damn it, Neil—for once—you’re right! I’m not going down without a fight!”
Together we formulated our plan.

* WOW, now we know what he did during the night and we feel his pain because it is all sifted through the character\actor’s five senses and maybe his sixth sense as well. That’s real a real SHOW. That’s Showing not Telling. In short, don’t let your narrator say or do what your character begs to say or do.

Happy writing till next time. COMING ATTRACTIONS or are they DISTRACTIONS? Two wonderful lady authors will be guest bloggers coming your way here! Two of my favorite ladies of all time who are also damned good writers – Julie Hyzy, author of The State of the ONION and Luisa Buehler, The Station Master.

Robert W. Walker www.myspace/robertwwalkerbooks
For a 3-Hour Online intensive, mind-blowing, life-changing, altering Writing Class that will shake up your writing and make you a better writer overnight, contact me at inkwalk at sbc global dot net


Morgan Mandel said...

No bugs to worry about outside here. It's too cold and they're all dead, Rob. I guess I can look forward to their return in the spring.
Morgan Mandel

Leigh Russell said...

That's the Golden Rule in writing, Show Don't Tell. You can tell yourself your plot, but you have to show your readers.