We often mention that telling instead of showing is the biggest reason why we reject submitted manuscripts, and we have many articles on the Castle Gate Press website that discuss ways to show rather than tell. Recently, I came across an example of what showing looks like that is so deep and vivid that I just had to share it.
This is a snippet from Writing Alone and With Others by Pat Schneider:
“If I tell you my character is waiting in a car, you won’t be ‘caught,’ but if I tell you he pushes his fingers down in the crack of the car seat where the ancient leather has pulled away from the seat frame, and pulls up a small coin purse with a faded note in it—you will be mine.”
Only a couple of tiny details about the car, and yet I can see it with such detail that I can almost smell it. The first example gives me a fact about the character. The second makes me feel like I’m looking over the character’s shoulder. That’s what you want your readers to feel. Anyone can give a list of facts, but it takes a true writer to use words vivid enough to paint pictures and scenes in the mind’s eye of the reader.
Give it a try. Pull out your current work in progress and find a sentence where you tell the readers something about your character or what he or she is doing. Create a couple of deep, intriguing details that will help set the mood or show something about the setting or the character. Then ask several friends read the two and tell you which one they prefer.
You can find out more about Pat Schneider and her books here: Pat Schneider Books