Monday, October 5, 2015

Show, Don't Tell: Can You Explain That?

"Show, don't tell." If you're a writer, you've probably heard this as advice from other writers and read about it in craft books many, many times. I was recently asked to explain it to a new writer, but after using a few "for instances," I decided to find something that would do a better job of describing it.

Here's an excellent article by Erin over at Daily Writing Tips.  If you're new to writing, this information will help you clearly understand how to show and not tell! By the way, I just discovered Daily Writing Tips, and it's a great place to find answers for any writing questions you may have!

Show, Don't Tell 

Anyone who’s ever written a short story or taken a freshman composition course has heard the words “show, don’t tell.”

I know those words can be frustrating. You might not know exactly what “show, don’t tell” means. Or you might believe that you are showing when you’re really telling.

While “telling” can be useful, even necessary, most people don’t realize how vital “showing” is to an effective story, essay, or even a blog post. Showing allows the reader to follow the author into the moment, to see and feel and experience what the author has experienced. Using the proper balance of showing and telling will make your writing more interesting and effective.

“Okay, I get it,” you’re thinking. “But how do I do it? How do I bring more ‘showing’ into my writing?”

I’m glad you asked. Here are some tips that will help make your writing more vivid and alive for your reader.

1. Use dialogue
This is probably one of the first things I talk to my students about when I have them write personal essays. Dialogue allows the reader to experience a scene as if they were there. Instead of telling the reader your mom was angry, they can hear it for themselves:
“Justin Michael,” mom bellowed, “Get in here this instant!”
Dialogue can give your reader a great deal about character, emotion and mood.

2. Use sensory language
In order for readers to fully experience what you’re writing about, they need to be able to see, hear, taste, smell and touch the world around them. Try to use language that incorporates several senses, not just sight.

3. Be descriptive
I’m sure everyone remembers learning to use adjectives and adverbs in elementary school. When we’re told to be more descriptive, it’s easy to go back to those things that we were taught. But being descriptive is more than just inserting a string of descriptive words. It’s carefully choosing the right words and using them sparingly to convey your meaning.
The following example is from a short story I wrote.

Telling: He sits on the couch holding his guitar.

There’s nothing wrong with that sentence. It gives the reader some basic information, but it doesn’t create an image. Compare that sentence with this:

Showing: His eyes are closed, and he’s cradling the guitar in his arms like a lover. It’s as if he’s trying to hold on to something that wants to let go.

The second example takes that basic information and paints a picture with it. It also uses figurative language—in this case, the simile “cradling the guitar in his arms like a lover”—to help create an image.

When using description, it’s important not to overdo it. Otherwise, you can end up with what I call “police blotter” description. For example:
He was tall, with brown hair and blue eyes. He wore a red shirt and jeans, and a brown leather jacket.

4. Be specific, not vague
This is another one I’m constantly reminding my college students about. Frequently, they will turn in essays with vague, fuzzy language. I’m not sure if they think this type of writing sounds more academic, but all it really does is frustrate the reader.

Instead of writing, “I had never felt anything like it before in my entire life,” take the time to try and describe what that feeling was, and then decide how best to convey that feeling to the reader. Your readers will thank you for it.

Hope this information from Daily Writing Tips is useful. If you're a seasoned writer, have you had to explain "show, don't tell" to a novice?  If you're new to writing, have ever had questions about it?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Originally posted 10/7/13

Monday, September 28, 2015

Goodbye to Yogi Berra

I am by no means a sports fan, but I knew Yogi Berra was a baseball legend and was sorry to hear that  he died last week. Although I was unaware of his many significant achievements in baseball, I was familiar with several of his Yogi-isms that always made me laugh.

If you are as ignorant about Yogi Berra's career as I was, here are some highlights, courtesy of Wikipedia:

Lawrence Peter "YogiBerra (May 12, 1925 – September 22, 2015) was an American professional baseball catcher,manager, and coach who played 19 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB) (1946–63, 1965), all but the last for the New York Yankees. An 18-time All-Star and 10-time World Series champion as a player, Berra had a career batting average of .285, while compiling 358 home runs and 1,430 runs batted in. He is one of only five players to win theAmerican League Most Valuable Player Award three times. Widely regarded as one of the greatest catchers in baseball history,he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.

And lastly some of my favorite Yogi-isms:

"It ain't over 'til it's over."
"When you come to a fork in the road, take it."
"I didn't really say everything I said."
"Baseball is 90 percent mental, the other half is physical."
"It's deja vu all over again
"If the world were perfect, it wouldn't be."
"The future ain't what it used to be."
"You can observe a lot by watching."
"Nobody goes there anymore, it's too crowded."
"We made too many wrong mistakes."
"You wouldn't have won if we'd beaten you."

Do you have any additional Yogi-isms you'd like to add? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Crustless Spinach Quiche

Quiche is a great main dish that can be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner. It's also easy to prepare and relatively inexpensive.

As with any pie, the crust has the most fat and calories, so my recipe is crustless. Also, pudding based pies use whole eggs, heavy cream and butter. All of those ingredients can add a few unwanted pounds, so this version is slimmed down. Hope you enjoy it!

Slimmed Down Spinach Quiche

2 8 oz. packs frozen spinach
1 medium onion chopped
12 egg whites
1 12 oz. can fat free evaporated milk
1 t salt
1/4 t nutmeg
1/4 t cayenne
1 cup 2% cheddar cheese
2 T flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x12 inch Pyrex dish with cooking spray; coat with flour and set aside. Thaw spinach in microwave, then saute with onions.

In a large bowl combine egg whites, evaporated milk, salt, nutmeg and cayenne pepper. In a small bowl, mix cheese with flour, then add to egg mixture; whisk together. Add spinach to egg mixture and mix well.

Pour quiche into prepared dish and bake for 40-45 minutes. Makes six servings.

What's your favorite quiche?

Have a great week and thanks for stopping by!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Gail Russell: Lost Dream

Life is the fullest when we pursue our dreams. I once heard Oprah Winfrey describe a job she had as a teenager at a local five and dime. I don't remember the exact job, but I do remember her saying that she wasn't allowed to talk.  Regarding this restriction, Oprah said, "I thought I would die!" Can you imagine Oprah not talking?

Sometimes, not choosing the right career path can be deadly, as in Gail Russell's situation.  If you've never heard of her, she was a beautiful actress that never wanted stardom, or even to act for that matter, but regardless, a movie career was thrust upon her. 

Russell began painting at age five, and her lifelong dream was to become a commercial artist.  However, that ambition was put aside when Hollywood came calling.

Born in Chicago, Russell moved to the Los Angeles area with her family when she was a teenager. Her otherworldly beauty brought her to the attention of Paramount Pictures in 1942. She chose a starlet's salary of $50 a week to help her struggling family, and also to appease her mother, who as a young woman, had wanted to be an actress. Living vicariously through your kids is never a good idea. Russell was an extreme introvert and almost clinically shy with no acting experience, yet Paramount had great plans and lots of money riding on her.

Russell appeared in several films in the early and mid-1940s, the most notable being The Uninvited (1944).

She started drinking on the set of that film to ease her paralyzing stage fright and lack of self-confidence.  She'd freeze, forget her lines, then dissolve into tears, so the alcohol was a crutch.  But it eventually destroyed her career, her looks, and her personal life. By the fifties, Gail Russell's career was on the skids.

On July 5, 1957, she was photographed after she drove her convertible into the front of Jan's coffee shop at 8424 Beverly Blvd. After failing a sobriety test, Russell was arrested and charged with driving under the influence.

Russell was unable to control her addiction and in August of 1961, was found dead.  Malnourished and full of alcohol, Gail Russell died of a heart attack at age 36. Authorities found her in her apartment surrounded by her paintings and empty vodka bottles.

Who knows how different and fulfilling Gail's life would have been if she'd only been able to pursue her dream?  Are you pursuing yours? If not as a full time job, do you have time to enjoy it as a hobby?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Reposted from 9/30/13

Monday, September 7, 2015

Off for Labor Day

Happy Labor Day! I'm off today to enjoy the holiday. Hope you are enjoying yours! See you next week.