Kiki Hamilton, a talented new author of Young Adult (YA) urban fantasy, is our guest blogger this week. Her magical first novel, The Faerie Ring, is forthcoming from TOR Books in spring 2011. You can read more about Kiki and her work at her personal blog and her group blog with other YA and middle grade fantasy authors at The Enchanted Inkpot.
We’ve asked Kiki to discuss what for many writers is easier said than done—showing versus telling. Kiki writes in a variety of genres for YA, including paranormal and epic fantasies. All of her novels are steeped in mystery, magic, and adventure against atmospheric backdrops such as 1871 London.
Thanks for inviting me to blog with you, Supriya!
We’ve all heard it a hundred times: Show, don’t tell. But sometimes it’s not as easy as it sounds. Show, don’t tell, can be a nebulous concept to an author just starting out and even for more experienced authors.
Here’s a simple example of the difference:
Tell: Katie walked toward the classroom. She was one of the smartest girls in school.
Show: Katie collected her books. Latin. Trigonometry. Physics. And those were just for her morning classes.
Can you see the difference? We saw the subjects that Katie was studying and that revealed much more information than to just tell us she was smart.
Here’s another one – let’s see if you can decide which shows and which tells:
Peter was so angry he broke the mug.
With a roar, Peter grabbed the mug and slammed it down on the table so hard it shattered into a million pieces.
I think it’s obvious which of those two sentences drops the reader right into the scene. And that’s the key to showing: Drop your reader right into the scene. Let us feel the emotions, the cry of rage, hear and feel the mug not only breaking, but shattering under our fingers.
A scene shows us action in real time. The events unfold as we read. What makes a scene real is to include all of our senses:
Do we smell the scent of fresh baked bread?
Do we feel the softness of the bunny’s fur?
Can we taste the bite of the jalapeno pepper?
Can we hear the whistle of the train as it approaches the station?
Can you see the sad eyes of the elephant in the zoo?
Scenes also include settings that the reader can picture, as well as dialogue. Sometimes a writer will “tell” the story by narrative summary, which can cause a reader to disengage and lose interest. Instead, “show” your story by pulling your readers into the scene. Make them use their senses and emotions to experience what’s happening. You won’t lose their interest that way.
However – there are places for narrative summary – to vary they rhythm and texture of your writing. But small doses can go a long way.
Often times, the words ‘had’ and ‘was’ are indicative of telling. Take a look at your manuscript and see how often those words appear. And when you find them, try and say the same thing in a different way using words that show the setting or the character.
What techniques do you use to make sure you’re showing rather than telling?
Thanks so much for blogging with us today, Kiki! Your insights on this topic make for a terrific refresher. We’ll be keeping an eye out for your new release. Much luck and best wishes with the release of The Faerie Ring and please keep us posted!