Friday, July 26, 2019

The Show not Tell Cheat Sheet - Galaxy Con

This weekend I am attending GalaxyCon in Raleigh, NC.
On Friday, July 26 I am giving a panel about Show no Tell. Here are what I'm going to cover in case anyone wants it.

The Show not Tell cheat sheet. 

To know what can be shown, ask yourself---
What does your main character see, hear, taste, smell, feel?
What reactions do they observe in the other characters around them?

Actions have consequence---
What are the physical, mental, and sensory responses you would have to particular stimulus? Now apply it to your character.

Bill was cold.

Bill shivered in his coat and blew a warm breath against the tips of his burning fingers.

Show instead of dialog tags----

*With Tags*

“You left your coat at my house,” Jon said. He took off his backpack and removed Jim’s coat from inside.

*Without Tags*

Jon took off his backpack and opened it. “You left your coat at my house.” He removed Jim’s coat and held it out to him.

Get creative to avoid repetition---
Showing that it’s cold.

Mike exhaled a breath of white.
Mike rubbed his hands together.
Mike tucked his hands under his armpits.
“I don’t know where--” Mike’s teeth chattered. “The guy is.”

Don’t overdo it---
Use showing when you want to invest the reader into your character or the situation.

If your character has the ability to fight, show them by how the character fights.

Is your character an expert pickpocket? Show through action.

Is your character an excellent liar and manipulator, are they intimidating in presence? Show it through their behaviors, their choices, the way they set other characters up, and the visual reactions of secondary scene characters.

And sometimes Bob just walks across the room.


Like any new technique, it will take time to learn. But don’t give up. Practice with scenes that are not in your current manuscript. Distance yourself from your current work to keep things objective. Or, if you prefer only to practice with what you’re currently writing, then break it down to a page at a time.

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