This post first ran here on September 4, 2008.
Something I’ve learned about good, impactful writing in fiction is knowing when you are “telling” the readers your story and when you are “showing” it to them. There is a place in a good book for both methods, but the “shown” passages are always more dramatic and dynamic. They create two entirely different effects. Instead of telling you the difference, I will show you. Here is a short paragraph, an example of a story being told to the reader.
Bob walked over to the door. He turned the door knob, opened the door and started to walk outside. It was an icy cold winter day so he went back inside in a hurry and put on his coat.
Well, if I’m the reader I haven’t missed anything, I know what’s happening, but the passage doesn’t draw me into Bob’s world, doesn’t let me feel or sense much of anything. Now I’ll rewrite the same passage showing you the story.
Floor boards creaked underfoot. Step by step, across the room. The chill of cold brass felt smooth as the knob turned in his palm. A thunk nudged against the quiet as the bolt released from its locked position. The squeak of old hinges whined “please oil me” to Bob in their pivot. A final push and a step. Whistling arctic wind whipped against skin as shivers crept all up and down.
Wow. Cold. Bob thought better of his choice of clothing. Slam!
Nippy fingers worked their way through the dark foyer closet, feeling for heavy suede.
Isn’t that a lot more fun and entertaining to read?
Written by Marvin D Wilson