Friday, January 15, 2010

Benefits of Showing (Part 4 of 6)


• enhances reader identification—they’re transported into the action

• provides a sense of time and place, particularly if the story is set in an unfamiliar world

• creates suspense

• reveals relationships better than telling

• offers unique or unusual details and develops feelings of depth and reality

• hints at or reveals motives behind an action.

This doesn’t mean you want to fill the pages with details. Think of capturing an image. Ask yourself, what is the picture I want to capture?

A showing exercise: Here’s something to consider. Below is a list of common nouns. If you color in details, you give readers a vivid picture. A few, well-chosen details make your fiction or nonfiction come alive.

If I tell you that I met the financial guru Warren Buffett and noticed his wristwatch, what picture have I captured? Nothing special, but if I comment that he wears a Timex, a Seiko, or a Rolex, I’m enlarging the picture. (And, yes, it's all right to use brand names provided you spell them correctly.)

Try the exercise below:

Instead of a tree, use elms, oaks, mesquite, or refer to the golden leaves of the maple.

Instead of a soft drink, name it, but describe your pleasure or disgust as you sip or guzzle.

Instead of a car, use __________

Instead of a running shoe, use __________

Instead of breakfast, use __________

By adding the right details, you open readers' understanding and enable them to sense what you see and feel.


  1. Oh, I'm glad to hear you say you can use brand names. We were just talking about that at our writer's group not too long ago. :)

  2. If you use a brand name, do you need to put the copyright sign next to it? (Can't do it in this comment box.) By the way, I love the sum-up sentence at the end of each blog.

  3. Shirley asked about using brand names.It's all right to use them without the registered-trademark symbol. No, you don't need the symbol. You're giving corporations free advertising when you speak about their product.

  4. Thanks to all of you who have made comments. My assistant, Twila(who has a strong mother complex), nagged me to thank you. I could do that on my own, but we have to take care of our elderly parents and make them feel important and useful.

    I hope you're enjoying the blog. If you have questions, please let me know.

    I started this blog to help other writers improve. I used to conduct mentoring clinics across the US. I'm unable to do that because of my writing contracts, but my desire to help hasn't diminished.

  5. Oh, isn't he the precious one? Yes, you should all feel sorry for me. Day in and day out I have to put up with his abuse. I'm glad he listens to my nagging, though. At least he's somewhat obedient ... eventually. :-)


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