Not sure if this is the correct forum or not?
I recently wrote the passage below in a rough draft of a short story. There seem to be a lot of writers who visit this forum that maybe donít have quite my level of experience*. I thought explaining my thought process might be of some use.
This example involves the difference between showing and telling, quite a hot button issue at times on this forum. I hope this demonstrates a little about how and why you should show instead of tell.
Itís early in the story, and Iíve got a scene where the protagonist meets the love interest. As a set up, I wanted to portray the POV character as more reserved when it comes to picking up women than his irresponsible friend.
My first instinct was to write: Auggie didnít pick up women the way Benj did.
That sentence has its attractions. Mainly, itís quick and painless to write. There, now the reader knows the information, and I can move on to the good part where he meets the girl.
A couple of problems, however: 1) itís very much telling and not showing and 2) itís me being lazy instead of trying to produce something I can be proud of.**
Upon further reflection, the passage became:
Auggie held open the rickety door to the run down tavern. ďI canít believe I let you talk me into this.Ē
Benj grinned. ďQuit your bellyaching. Itís chilly tonight.Ē
ďBenj, no. You need some sleep. Weíre riding at first light.Ē
He stepped past the major into the dim room, his eyes scanning the occupants. ďCímon now, the memory of a nice bed warmer is just what I need to keep me happy on the road.Ē
With a sigh, Auggie followed. ďThatís not how a gentleman behaves, you know.Ē
ďGentleman?Ē Benj stopped walking and raised his hand to stroke his chin in an exaggerated gesture of thoughtfulness. ďIím more of a rogue.Ē His eyes sparkled. ďA handsome rogue.Ē
ďYouíre incorrigible, thatís what you are.Ē
This isnít perfect, and Iíll revise it many times before it goes into the finished product. However, itís much better. Why you ask? Iím glad you brought it up.
1. The reader experiences the action as it happens, which draws them into the story. The telling sentence I started with doesnít do anything for them.
2. It allows me to develop character. The telling statement gave the what, but not the why. Take a deeper look:
The passage clearly shows Auggie reluctant to pick up a girl at the tavern, just as the telling statement. He is shown at first putting up a token argument and then getting to the heart of the matter: he doesnít think a gentleman should pick up and discard girls, showing the reader why he acts that way. I also develop seeds of the relationship between the two men. Even though heís the superior officer, Auggie doesnít try to order Benj around. Instead, he sighs and follows. The idea isnít to tell everything about the characters and their relationships at once; itís to lay one more stone of the foundation.
The passage also lets me delve a bit into Benjís character. Instead of being a cardboard cutout womanizer, it gives a little insight into who he is. When Auggie scolded him, he could have argued or became defensive. Instead, heís shown as being good natured because he responds by joking.
Now, weíve got the why down, but not the how.
To accomplish showing, I:
1. Put my character in a situation where he can demonstrate the characteristic Ė I needed to show the contrast between the POV character and his friend regarding women, so I put them in an environment where his friend is hunting for a girl and heís not.
2. I revealed character through action Ė Instead of saying: Benj looked for girls to pick up, I show him searching the room. Instead of saying: Auggie didnít want to find a girl, I show him arguing with his friend. Instead of saying: Benj is good natured, I show him joking in response to a scolding rather than arguing or shouting or acting sullen.
I hope this helps someone out there. Let me know if it does, and maybe I can do more of these.
*Not that Iím trying to portray myself as an expert on writing, just someone who may be a little farther along on the learning curve than some.
**Note that this is the rough draft. I use the first draft, most of the time, as word vomit. My motto is: get it done and move on. ďShe was hungryĒ is fine; Iíll fix it to describe her hunger in the 2nd draft. Iíll write stuff like: He rode into ///come up with a town name and describe it a little///. For this story, Iím trying to produce a little better draft at the start, and, really, this telling portion was me being lazy more than anything else.