Thursday, January 28, 2010
Drama in the Snow
About a month ago, a woman contacted me through my publicist. She's writing a book on the craft of fiction writing and wondered if I'd like to contribute to the section on revision. Another chance at shameless self-promotion? Heck yeah! Count me in! Of course, being who I am, I put it off as long as possible. But once I dug in and got to work on the different sections (characters, plot, scenes), it was thought provoking and even fun. So what in the world does this have to do with the title of this blog? I'm getting there, I promise. Remember, I'm a Southerner. I like to meander my way into things.
So I was snowshoeing yesterday with my dogs way up in the back country. As we ambled along, I thought about the next section I needed to work on for her book: "Show Don't Tell." One of those Ten Commandments of Writing we've all heard a million times. Was there really anything new I could say about it? I noticed one of my dogs digging and sniffing at a certain spot up ahead. When I got there, I was greeted with this sight: blood-spattered snow, a pile of deer poop, deer tracks and some other kind of track--coyote? cougar?--all mixed up together. And big hanks of long, course hair. Most likely deer hair. "Drama in the snow," I muttered to my dogs, studying the scene. What had happened here, I wondered? Had a cougar or coyote grabbed for a deer, drawn blood and hair? Had the deer gotten away? Was the blood even the deer's or was it the predator's? My dogs--with their super-hero noses--probably knew, but they weren't talking. Or telling. Nobody could stand there and tell me anything. The drama was shown in the snow, and I was completely drawn in.
Which got me to thinking: when you tell the reader what's going on and why, you take them out of the story. You rob them of the luxury of discovery, right along with the narrator. When you show the reader emotions, motivations, and deeper truths, they become much more emotionally and even viscerally involved with and connected to the characters. And isn't that what we all strive for, as writers?