Telling vs. Showing (in real life)

I recently completed my pre-edits and have entered the stage of content edits. The approach to this process is new and wonderful and exhausting. I've edited before but never to this extent (largely because I was unsure of how to go about it).  The editing stage requires you to be different type of writer. To look at your work with a divorced eye, to cut, restructure and really look at word choices and what you're trying to say.

So to prepare myself for this new role, I took a few days off with my family to enjoy some road tripping and camping. It was on this journey that I was given a tremendous lesson in Showing vs. Telling.

 

TELLING
TELLING

This picture was on our picnic table. “Help Keep Wildlife Wild” it says.

I took one look at this and thought , “Sure, no problem.  When we are roasting marshmallows, I'll be sure to not give this cute teddy bear nor his friend, the bird, any sweet treats.”

I didn't give it a second thought. I didn't think about buying bird seed or scratching the cute bear between the ears. I went about the business of camping and playing in the river and enjoying “the nature” as my kids call it. I thought about if the rain would make us leave early and what we were having for dinner.

 

Then I saw this picture:

photo
SHOWING. OMG-100% SHOWING

The sign says: This bear's future and the safety of others depends on you!

This picture was on the bear box at our camp site.

The bear box that was no more than 10 feet away from where we slept.

This picture made me want to get a hotel room or buy a pop up camper at the very least. This picture made me afraid that any minute a bear was going to come out of the woods and chew my head off. I no longer cared about 1500 year old trees, 24 feet in diameter, or history of any sort. I wanted to go from camp to camp to insure everyone had their food locked up tight and not a crumb was left behind. I profiled campers eyeballing sites next to ours. Would they be responsible? Wasn't I essentially trusting them with my children's (and dog's) life?

It was this picture that made me not wear any flavored chap stick (which I hid in the car) and kept me up long into the wee hours of the night listening for sounds of…who knows what. I slept with bear spray. I frequently scanned the woods and outlying areas, so much that I got a stiff neck. I played with my kids, looking like all was well. Holding back with the scream “BEAR”, ready to hurled it out in warning.

Showing Vs. Telling.

One bear picture made me move on to the next thing. In a writer's case…the next book. That's the last thing anyone wants.

The other bear picture made me afraid, very afraid, to use the restroom at night.  He's inspired a blog post about him. He's made me explore tents options like those that can be pitched on top of your car. He evoked an emotion in me that resonates twenty-four hours later, as I'm ensconced in the safety of my home.

I remember reading a book by Jan Burke (The Irene Kelly Series) and Jan wrote a short passage about Irene seeing something so horrific she knew she would never be the same. Jan didn't describe what Irene saw. All we (the reader) knew was Irene was looking in to a pit. A mass grave. Victims of a serial killer. The paragraph was short. Maybe four sentences. The words were strong and showed me how disturbed Irene was. My own imagination did the rest. I read that book several years ago and still remember it today.

So as I embark on content edits. These are the things I will be more focused on. Sure, there is a place to “tell” in a story but there are more places to show and in the wise words of my critique partners, to not show would be “a missed opportunity”.

And that's the last thing I want…a missed opportunity!

 

Fun Tidbit: The campground we stayed at was name after an explorer who was mauled (and survived) by a grizzly bear. YEESH!

Thanks for popping by. Hope all is well and Keep Moving Forward!

 

 

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