Friday, October 16, 2009

Posted by Laurel Garver on Friday, October 16, 2009 No comments
The fiction experts tell us time and again to "show, not tell." It's a useful enough guideline, as far as it goes. But how should one go about showing? Describing physical sensations is one way: throat tightening and eyes stinging shows a character is sad or upset. But a whole page of this sort of descriptions gets tiring to read. Ditto with descriptions of movement and tone of voice.

Tapping into a character's interior world, showing thoughts that are never spoken can be another way of punching up a scene. The real trick is to write "non telling" thoughts. One of the ways to do that came to me, strangely, while editing an essay about Knut Hamsun at work. The author of the piece was from Denmark, and my mind made the association he's Danish...mmm, I could go for a danish. Wouldn't knut hamsun be the perfect name for a rich, eggy dessert bread full of pecans, sultanas and candied cherries? I posted some of these random thoughts on Facebook, and a friend piped up, "you must be hungry." Of course, I was hungry. Ridiculously hungry. Those strange associations said it colorfully and memorably, much more than if I'd made my status "Laurel is hungry."

So when you want to tell it slant in your character's inner monologues, remember "random associations" as yet another way of showing, rather than telling, how you character feels.

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