Ninja Writers Academy: Show Vs. Tell

Ninja Writer Academy is a weekly series. Every Saturday morning, I post a lesson here. You can do the work, then come share it on our Facebook group. I’ll be on Facebook on Sunday for Office Hours so we can discuss the lesson, or anything else writing related. If you’d like to join the Academy and get an email on Saturday with a link to the lesson, plus notification when Office Hours start, Click Here.

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The Put Me There Assignment

Ninja Writers Academy-The Put Me There Assignment

Someone posted in our Facebook group about showing and telling and I thought–what a great topic for this week’s Academy post.

Let’s start with some definitions.

SHOWING is scene. It puts the reader in the time and place of the events in the story. When you show, you take the reader to the party with you.

TELLING is narrative or exposition. It leaves the reader in their own time and place, learning about an event that took place somewhere else, sometime else. When you tell, you tell the reader about the party after it’s over.

There is a place for exposition. Sometimes you just need the reader to know that something happened, but they don’t need to actually be at that party with you. But, if you find yourself with pages and pages, or worse chapters and chapters, full of telling, it’s time to unpack some of that into scene.

This week, I’d like you to look at your manuscript. Try printing out some of it, if you can. Highlight showing in one color and telling in another. Look at the telling and ask yourself if any of it should be expanded into a scene.

Scenes usually have dialogue–either between two or more characters or interior dialogue if the character is alone. Scenes unfold for the reader as they unfold for the characters.

My Turn

I’m just going to give you an example this week.

Telling

Rob watched the ambulance leave with Mattie in it. The cop had him in the backseat, because he was brown. Guy was standing on the lawn, because he wasn’t.

Showing

Rob couldn’t see or hear what happened between Mattie and the paramedics, but when the ambulance pulled away, Guy was still standing on the grass.

“What’s your name?” He asked the male cop.

“Farmer.”

“Officer Farmer.” Rob tried to be authentically respectful, but didn’t think he quite made it all the way there. “I have ID in my wallet. In my pocket.”

Farmer didn’t move for a long moment. He watched Guy pacing the grass. Finally, he got out of the back seat of the cruiser and came around to dig Rob’s wallet out of his pocket.

He opened it and found his driver’s license. “Shit.”

“Right?” Rob said. “Want to let me go?”

Farmer uncuffed him. “I’m just doing my job.”

“And I’m the brown one. I get it.”

“It’s not like that.” Farmer walked toward his partner, then stopped and came back. “I’m not like that. Griffith!”

The female officer came toward them.

“This is Robert Huntington,” he said. “And this is his house.”

“He does not own this house.” Guy kept back, on the porch, as if he wanted to keep his claim. “Not anymore anyway. And he broke my nose.”

Griffith came closer to him. “The EMTs should have taken a look at that.”

“I’m fine.”

“You’ll need to have it set.”

“Why aren’t you arresting him?” Guy swung an arm toward Rob.

“We’ll get a report from the girl,” Farmer said.

“Where are they taking her?” Rob asked, ignoring Guy.

“UMC.” Griffith looked at Rob for a moment, then her partner. “Go on.”

He took his wallet back from Farmer and fumbled Frank’s keys out of his pocket.

Your Turn

Here’s your homework this weekend, Ninja!

Are you in this week? Leave a comment here and let me know. Ninja Writers are ALL about the big A word: Accountability. Post here that you’re going to be part of the Academy this week, then do it, Ninja.

Pick a an expository piece from your work in progress and open it up into a scene.

Come by Facebook and share your scene, both ways. Office hours are at noon PST tomorrow (Sunday.) See you there!

Please share this post on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, and spread the word about the Ninja Academy.

If you haven’t joined the Academy yet, you can click here to do that. It’s totally free–when you sign up, I’ll send you a link.

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