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Show Don’t Tell

December 15th, 2017

I’m back to a bit of mix-and-match this week. First, I’d like to mention a competition I saw recently. Creative Writing for All is currently accepting entries for its 2018 Poetry and Short Story Competition. The theme is Cats and/or Dogs. The entry fee is £5 for the first entry and then £3 for any subsequent entries and the prizes in each category  are 1st: £60, 2nd: £30, 3rd: £15. All profits go to a good cause – The RSPCA at The Holdings, Kempsey. The closing date is 30th April; so you have plenty of time to start thinking up those animal-inspired plots and poems.

Next, I’d like to suggest you have a look at Popshot Magazine.  It’s an illustrated literary magazine – you can subscribe to the online version or the physical edition, and it’s a long time since I’ve seen such a beautifully produced publication. Even if you don’t feel you want to subscribe, there is plenty of content on their website that you can access free, to get a feel for their ethos. And it might just tempt you…

One of the things that writers hear repeatedly from their critics is ‘show don’t tell’ – but what exactly does this mean? I know many people find it difficult to put into practice; so this week I’m going to give you an example from the Writers Bureau course that sums it up perfectly. Read the two extracts and you’ll know exactly what I mean:

Here is an example of telling.

Mary is an alcoholic and is distressed because her husband, Nick, doesn’t love her anymore. He is about to leave her. He goes to the door, but she tries to stop him. He pushes her away and she knocks over a table lamp, cutting her hand.

The following section is shows the same thing.

Mary rubbed at her tearstained face. “I don’t believe you,” she hissed. “You do still love me. Say you do. Say it!”

She staggered across the room and fell against Nick, grabbing his arm to stop him from opening the door.

“I won’t let you go. I won’t.”

He jerked free and the room seemed to spin as she tumbled back against the table. Almost in slow motion, she crashed to the floor, knocking over the antique lamp which shattered into lfragments. She used the arm of the sofa to drag herself up and saw a bright red stain spreading over the cream-coloured leather. Pulling a shard of porcelain from her palm, she held out her blood-stained hand in a silent plea.

Nick’s face twisted in disgust. “Love you? I haven’t loved you for years, but you’ve been too drunk to notice.”

The reader gets the same information from both excerpts but the first one is boring – the second one sizzles!

Finally, congratulations to the winner of our latest Association of Freelance Writers competition – Victoria Walklate with her story Fantasy Man. Victoria will be providing a guest post in the New Year.


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About The Author: Diana Nadin

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