Tuesday, February 2, 2010

It’s Okay to Tell—Sometimes (Part 3 of 5)

You use telling statements when you need to include minor-but-vital events that aren’t dramatic. The purpose of those scenes is to bring readers up to the present without interfering with the pace.

Suppose Eleanor flies to Europe to seek the proper setting for her new historical novel. You want to let readers know she went to three different places and the fourth one is where the action picks up.

A simple paragraph can bridge the time from her leaving the United States to the moment of action: Seven hours after landing at Charles de Gaule Airport, Eleanor reached the Normandy Coast. After a fruitless day, she left for Zurich where she spent two days. Her Eurail pass took her to Berlin and finally to Brussels.

You need that paragraph of information to authenticate Eleanor's travels. Because nothing dramatic happens until she reaches Brussels, you can leave out three minor scenes. Don't take her through customs or have her struggle with French. Readers don't care. They want her to get to Brussels.

Spare your readers from details they don't need to know.


  1. I plan to recommend your blog to all my Christian Writers' Guild students. Thanks for digging in deep to help beginning writers become better writers.

  2. This is great, Cec! Thanks for doing this. I'm going to suggest your blog to our Writers' Group as well. I appreciate all that I've learned from you over the years, and I know they will, too.

  3. I'll always be waiting in the wings with a tsk-tsk or a hug.


  4. That is a great lesson for those transitions that always trip me up. Thanks!

  5. Thanks, Cec! You always get to the core of what really matters in writing. Thank you for condensing the craft in a few words and being so effective. I always come back for more.


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