Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Writing Interesting Stories

This last week I attended Education Week and one of my favorite classes was taught by Dawn and Morris Thurston called How to Write a Life Story People Will Want to Read. I learned a lot of tips and I wanted to share some of them. They talked about “showing”, not “telling”. Here is a short explanation from their web site, “Show, Don't Tell--You can tell someone how to wash the dishes (fill the sink with warm, soapy water, scrub the dishes with a sponge, rinse, etc.), or you can show them by demonstrating what you mean. We all know that showing communicates far more effectively than merely telling. The same principle applies to writing. You can tell your readers that your sister was depressed or you can show the depression by describing your sister's messy house, her inattention to her appearance, and failure to answer the phone--all examples that illustrate depression. Try to avoid summary statements. Use plenty of illustrative details to demonstrate how things look and feel.”

Here is a good example of showing from a story called The Hessian by Carol Enos that I found on Dawn’s blog: “Johann’s chest heaved; his breath came in desperate gasps. He had been running all night only steps ahead of his pursuers. Eight hours earlier, he had slipped out of his bedroll, crept silently at first, and moved from tree to tree, taking advantage of the early March nightfall. There was no moon and the trees were a dark curtain that could hide a fleeing soldier. He feared his pounding heart would alert the sentries, but they seemed unaware that a threat was behind their lines, not in front. An easy escape seemed assured. And then the feral dogs that had attached themselves to the army began to howl. Johann bolted. He was young, fast, motivated and angry. He had been caught trying to get away once before. He would not face the gauntlet of cat o’nine tails whips ever again. He would die first.”

By showing instead of telling I see pictures in my head. Great tip Dawn and Morris. Thanks for teaching us.

Chris Stevenson

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