Experienced writers have learned this lesson well, but less experienced writers are still learning it or have it yet to learn. Even for experienced writers it is good to review it every so often. What am I talking about? The “show, don’t tell” rule of writing. It sounds so simple, and yet it is one of the hardest to learn for some of us.
Telling is what you see with narratives, and it is okay in the proper prospective. But you do not want to fill your book with telling your story. Your readers like action, dialog, descriptions, emotions, all the things that your readers can take and create a picture in their minds.
Show your story. Give it characters your reader can fall in love with and want more of them. Give them a setting or location that their mind can grab hold of and feel they are right there with the characters. Make the characters speak to them and create action that keeps the story moving. Give descriptions of the setting and characters through narrative and some through dialog, but do not insult your readers by giving them every little detail. Readers like to be a bit creative themselves so give just enough to stimulate their own imaginations, and let them run with it.
When you have fast-paced scenes, it is good to slow things down and give your reader a chance to breathe. Your story should run in waves of fast pace and slow pace. That is where the narrative comes in. You can use it to slow down the pace of the story.
Someone once told me to read through my story; and if there are areas where I am telling, ask myself if there is a way I can show it rather than tell it. If there are, then I need to change it.
Narratives do serve a purpose, so remember not to change all of them. Also remember, it is the author’s responsibility to create a world in which his/her readers can get lost and want more of it.
Following are some points to remember when self-editing your work: 1) How often do you use narrative summary? 2) Which sections do you want to convert into scenes (action)?
3) Do you have any narrative summary? (You do need some.) 4) Are you describing your characters’ feelings or are you showing them?
Faye M. Tollison
Author of: To Tell the Truth
Upcoming books: The Bible Murders
Member of: Sisters In Crime
Writers on the Move