Posts Tagged ‘How to Show Not Tell’

How to Show “Less Is More”

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

Less Is MoreIn my last few pieces, I went into some depth about how to teach children metaphor, all with the emphasis on shedding light on the old, favorite utterance among English and Creative Writing instructors alike: “Show me, don’t tell me.”

And, since I assert most teachers never really stop to think about how to explain what that odd phrase actually means [nor can they—usually—do it very well, themselves], I thought the subject needed to be explored some more, and then broken down into parts we can all understand, enabling those of us who find ourselves teaching children better qualified to make “show don’t tell” actually make some sense!  And, hopefully, I was able to stimulate your minds enough to help you teach such concepts, in regards to writing, to your students or your own children.

So now, I come upon another phrase often thrown around in writing—and other creative—classes, and that’s the phrase:

Less is more.  The phrase, evidently, is 19th century proverbial phrase, first found in print in Andrea del Sarto, 1855, a poem by Robert Browning.

But what, exactly, does it mean?

We grown-ups can understand the meaning easily enough, but how can we teach such an abstract idea to children?  To a child, however, it’s a nonsensical thing to say, and trying to explain the meaning can be tricky.  I’ve thought about this quite a bit, and I’ve come to a determination about why less really is “more” when it comes to creative writing or story telling…er…storyshowing.

The phrase less is more is usually applied to the creating of a scene, description of something in a narrative, or other similar instances.  So why is less more, and what does that mean?

Well, when describing…while storyshowing…we want our listeners or readers to feel like they’re “there”, as much as possible; we want to show and not tell them what’s going on in such a way as to excite their imaginations, right?

Here’s what I’ve come to realize about less is more:

When we give too many details or too much description, we actually [in my words] sort of steal or rob people’s imaginations of the privilege of filling in details, in their minds, from past experiences; doing this makes the story less intriguing [at least for adults], and even to a large degree for kids, because our imaginations are usually more vivid than even the greatest description.

The thing is, it’s not so important your reader or listener “see” the details exactly the same way as the writer has first imagined in his or her head [what writers who use too much detail typically are trying to do]; so long as the reader gets the important details to complete a picture in his or her mind, this makes for better storyshowing.

Here are a few examples:

Too much detail:

John was all muddy.  His once white, Nike shoes with the electric blue stripes and matching blue laces were now covered in mud two inches thick, with little bits of grass sticking out here and there, and the mud was up past John’s ankles, so that his socks were just as muddy as his Nike’s, and the mud had spattered his legs, white shorts, and white T-shirt, with globs of mud and spots of muddy water stains made his shirt look kind of like a Dalmatian.

Notice how you “see” all of those details but, like misdirection in a magic trick, your imagination is focused ONLY on those details, and “misses” the bigger picture?  That’s what too much attention can do in just about any circumstance of life.

Now fewer details:

John looked like he’d stepped on a mud bomb.   What made it worse was he had been dressed in white; white shoes, shorts, and T-shirt.  Now his clothes looked kind of like a Dalmatian and he stank like the swamp.

See how the image of “…like he’d stepped on a mud bomb” allows your imagination to picture a mud “bomb” “explode” beneath some kid?  The remaining, few details give you just enough to complete a picture that will be uniquely your own; you might even have someone in mind to “be” John.

The greatest novelists are known for their skill in using sparing, sketchy details when it comes to description, respecting the reader’s imagination as the most important element in storyshowing.   Children, in their excitement while writing stories, often overload with details, and most adults are probably just about as prone to this [natural] inclination.

If you can effectively teach your students to always incorporate LOOK, ASK, DECIDE, and FIND, in their own creative writing [I like the idea of making a poster visible in the classroom], as well as getting comfortable in using some basic simile and metaphor, they will quickly pick up on how to skillfully “show and not tell” and even do so by using less to make their stories more engaging.

How To Teach Children Metaphor (Part Two)

Friday, April 16th, 2010
Dead Metaphor

"She's a Flower" is an example of Dead Metaphor

I said, in a previous post, metaphor is coming right out and saying something IS, versus simile, where we make a comparison using the words “like”, “as”, and “than.”  So to get your child or students started, you’ll want to begin with some simple metaphors, preceded by familiar similes, with much explanation, of course.

First of all, let’s read a “textbook” definition of metaphor.

About.com’s definition of a metaphor is:

“…a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between two unlike things that actually have something important in common. The word metaphor itself is a metaphor, coming from a Greek word meaning to “transfer” or “carry across.” Metaphors “carry” meaning from one word, image, or idea to another.”

But isn’t that definition about as easy to understand, for a kid, as when their teacher first says, “Show me, don’t tell me”?  We have to start by giving examples, and getting kids to think about WHY the seemingly NON-apparent things in common or similarities make sense.  LOOK, ASK, DECIDE, and FIND will be very important during these moments of discovery.

So…one example could be:

Simile: “Jennifer is as pretty as a flower in my garden.”
Metaphor: “Jennifer is a flower in the garden of my life.”

It shouldn’t be too difficult to get kids to understand a pretty girl can be thought of as being “as pretty as a flower” without actually looking LIKE a flower, but to explain how Jennifer could BE a flower in the “GARDEN” of someone’s life?  You have to initiate understanding of abstract concepts into kids’ minds by getting theme to associate a little bit at a time.  So to do this with the above example, you might create an interaction something like this [again; this just an example of a plausible exchange, not intended to be a script to follow, so please bear with]:

“How can a pretty girl ‘be’ a flower in a ‘garden’ of someone’s life?   Can a person really BE a flower?  Well, not really, of course, but the person is comparing his or her LIFE to a garden.  Garden’s have ALL SORTS of things in them, don’t they?  There are beautiful things and there are not so beautiful things.  There are flowers to enjoy, fruits and vegetables—sometimes—to eat, but there’s also dirt and bugs and wasps, gophers that damage the garden, and sometimes snakes, too right?  The bugs bother us.  The wasps can sting us.  The dirt can get in our shoes, or under our fingernails.  The snakes can scare us, or if they’re dangerous, they can bite and harm us, right?  Well, life is also filled with things that ‘bug’ or bother us, or hurt us, like a bite or a sting, or get us dirty, or cause other problems, right?  Life isn’t just made up of all pretty, fragrant, enjoyable or delicious things, now is it?  Well, in a similar way, a garden can be compared to a person’s life, which has all sorts of THINGS in it—some good, some not so good…even some bad things, like gophers that cause problems we might not see right away, or snakes.  Now imagine how a pretty girl—perhaps a man’s daughter, to him—could be LIKE a flower, but instead of saying ‘she’s LIKE a flower,’ he says she IS a flower, in the garden of his life.  He doesn’t really mean she’s an actual flower, but he is speaking in metaphor to make a comparison!”

I realize that’s quite an elaborate explanation, but we’re talking about kids here.  If your students are particularly precocious you can trim it down as you see fit to suit their ability to grasp the concept of metaphor in this regard.

In an effort to keep these posts shorter, I’ll approach the remaining three of the four, basic metaphors I mentioned in Part One, Visual, Conventional, & Creative in another post, since I’ve already touched upon the Dead metaphor here [Dead metaphors, I think, are good practice for helping kids to understand they’re familiar with metaphor, but might not realize it].

Just remember: our goal, here, in teaching children metaphor is to help them to learn how to use the device effectively to “show not tell” in writing.

Until next time!

[Next Up: How To Show With Visual Metaphors]

How To Teach Children Metaphor (Part One)

Monday, April 12th, 2010
Speak Metaphorically

How Do We Teach 'Metaphor' to Children?

[This piece was originally going to be titled: “Mom? What’s a ‘Meta’ For?” but I’ve decided to change the title of this portion of my series to a more practical—and search engine VISIBLE—one. ]

Teaching children how to “show not tell” using simile wasn’t so terribly difficult.

It’s really a matter of “thinking like a child” or paying attention to the things they say, the way they observe life, and then helping them think of examples that make sense.  Then once they get the hang of it and, after practicing LOOK, ASK, DECIDE, and FIND, they can begin to incorporate simile into their creative writing more regularly.   The use of the literary device, simile, really does aid in training children [or adults] to learn how to “show and not tell.”

But approaching metaphor with children will take more time, requiring more thought, and you’ll have to draw on many examples, because there are so many variations or types of metaphors [13 that I know of] to learn—many of them complex and abstract—and it will take years of using metaphors—consciously—to gain a real, functional skill in weaving them into one’s writing or manner of speech.  I say functional, because we all actually speak metaphorically almost every day, in life, without realizing it.

Here are a few examples:

1. The face of the mountain.
2. She broke my heart.
3. Life is a roller coaster.
4. I’m at the end of my rope.
5. He wore me down.
6. The daily grind.

Yes, those are ALL metaphors.  We usually call them “figures of speech,” but even I hadn’t thought of them as metaphors…until I started researching for this series, that is!

One quick note: I don’t think it’s a good idea to attempt to teach too many kinds of metaphor, at first; not until, at least, your student or child displays adeptness at coming up with metaphors that work well [there are abstract metaphors I’m STILL scratching my head over!]

So let’s start with just a few.  I’ve paraphrased definitions from this About.com piece: Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Metaphor—The Different Types of Metaphors.

Here are some basic metaphor types.

1. Dead Metaphor.  Those that we’ve used “to death” and have lost their impact or even meaningfulness.   The examples above are all dead metaphors.
2. Visual Metaphor.  Represents a person, place, thing, or idea by way of a visual image that suggests a particular association or point of similarity.
3. Conventional Metaphor.  A familiar comparison that doesn’t call attention to itself as a figure of speech.
4. Creative Metaphor.  An original comparison that DOES call attention to itself as a figure of speech.

I’ll start with the first one, Dead Metaphor; the other examples I’ll save for another day, and I’ll write shorter posts for #’s 3 & 4 in a separate lesson on ‘show don’t tell’, using those kinds of metaphors to accomplish good storyshowing.

Okay, let’s “take a stab” [metaphor!] at the first dead metaphor example for showing versus telling, and see if we can’t bring it back to life, and see if we can’t get your students’ thoughts in the right frame.

The front of the mountain was like the face of a monster. [Simile].
The face of the mountain was a terrible, grimacing monster breathing down on the village. [Metaphor]

Granted, the use of metaphor tends to call for more words and description, but you end up with a more vivid image, don’t you think?

Now for #2…

She broke my heart.  That’s a metaphor a child will probably have heard, so the correct, non-metaphorical statement would be…

She hurt my feelings, and made me very sad [since a person can’t literally break someone else’s heart, not without killing that person, right?]  And so once your students understand and recognize “she broke my heart” is a metaphor, but a dead—and NOT creative or original—metaphor, at that, you can help them DECIDE on a more creative, more “showy” metaphor (or simile) to use.  The verb ‘broke’ is kind of weak, too; plus, we’re not sure if ‘she’ intended to break the heart, or if she was unaware of what she’d done.

Let’s try something else that’s not only more dramatic, like…crushed or stomped on—or both—but also that answers questions about intent, and thus revealing more about her Secret Story:

She crushed my heart, like a dried leaf on the sidewalk, under her shoe.

Now let’s improve that and ‘show’ more with something like…

My heart was a dried leaf, on the sidewalk, on her walk through life, and she stepped on it, crushing it to dust.

Of course, with such an example, you’ll have to help kids “see” the reasoning behind why/how these make sense by maybe saying something like:

“Have you ever walked along the sidewalk, during autumn, and stepped on dead leaves?  They get crushed under your feet, don’t they?  And sometimes we don’t even notice it happen, do we?  Well, maybe this girl was so busy thinking about her own things, she wasn’t paying attention to the boy’s feelings, and ended up hurting his feelings—kind of like accidentally stepping on a dried leaf, and HE felt like she ‘crushed his heart’.  Maybe that can be their ‘Secret Story’ for you to tell.”

After a while, they’ll get the hang of thinking up metaphors all on their own; just keep them practicing.

I never said teaching metaphor to children would be a breeze, but my point is young kids—say, 3rd to 5th grade—CAN learn metaphor, and you CAN teach kids how to effectively “show, not tell” by taking on the challenge of understanding some simple metaphors, and using them in their writing.

Show Me a Smile…er…Simile!

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010
Use Simile to Show Not Tell

How To Show Simile?

I don’t recall what grade I was in when I first heard about simile or metaphor.  I’ll be honest, I’ve pretty much neglected—up until recently, that is—seeking a better understanding of metaphor, and perhaps, in part, because it’s always been easy to remember what a simile is.

I’ll get to metaphor some other day and, suffice it say [in my opinion], metaphor is very similar to simile, but instead of comparing by saying something is “like”, “as”, (or is similar too; you can also throw in “than”), we flat out say it IS [something it really isn't.]

But please be patient; I’ll get to some simple metaphors next time.

In school we were told, “Simile is a device in literature used to compare two things that aren’t alike, by using the words ‘like’ or ‘as.’”

Most of us can rattle off similes without much problem.

A few quick examples would be:

• She runs like a gazelle.
• He wiggles like a worm.
• He’s as sharp as a tack.
• Thoughts flowing like/as water.
• Bigger
than a bear.
• More powerful
than a locomotive [recognize that one?]

I say simile is the first real step to storyshowing [not a recognized word, by the way] we can readily teach to our children or students, because it’s easy to use the experience association inherent to simile.  What I mean is, we can’t compare something, using simile, if we haven’t made the observation ourselves, through experience, or at least had someone point out the similarities to us; kids will make their own associations and, when teaching “show don’t tell”, it’s best to build on those associations you know kids will have made rather than something an adult would.

Simile, in my estimation should be easy to teach to kids, because kids naturally use simile in their day-to-day speech, which they learn, of course, from mom and dad, friends, classmates, and teachers:

“You look like a princess!”
“Your house looks like a castle!”
“Eww! Your feet smell like rotten eggs!”
“You’re as smart as scientist!”
“She’s as pretty as a movie star.”

In truth, kids do pick up such expressions, mostly, from adults or other kids who picked them up from adults!  But sometimes, kids come up with their own, cute, quirky, and often humorous expressions of simile of their own:

“That man’s shoes are as big as a circus clown’s!”
“When Nastassja twirls, her pigtails look like whizzing helicopter blades!

Aren’t those more vivid than “The man had big feet”, and, “When she spins, her pigtails stick almost straight out!”?

And since it’s not necessarily hard to get kids to come up with examples of simile, it is important to get them thinking about WHY we make such comparisons and WHEN to use them in creative writing [or speaking].

And keep in mind: gaining these skills won’t only benefit your kids when they write or speak creatively while in school and such; having skills like these will greatly assist them throughout life, and achieving excellence in these will build confidence that will fuel all of your children’s life endeavors [hopefully, of course, only for good.]

So how do we teach kids how to effectively use simile in storyshowing?  Again, let’s not over think things, and just apply those same principles I covered in my previous posts on this subject.  But if you have yet to read those and don’t want to click away, here’s a brief synopsis:

• LOOK for “ The Secret Story.”
• ASK why things are the way they are.
• DECIDE on reasons for why things PROBABLY are the way they are.
• FIND words to explain how your decisions make sense.

Now…onto teaching kids how to use simile to “show instead of tell.”

In my other posts, my examples were still—admittedly, for the most part—examples an adult would be more likely to use than a child, so I’ll use one of the quirky “child” examples I used above [I actually thought them up, trying to think what a kid might say]; you can write down those you hear the children in your life say, and build on those, using these exercises.

So here goes:

“That man’s shoes are as big as a circus clown’s!”

Now, maybe, in real life, a man with such humongous shoes is also very tall and there’s probably no real “secret story” to discover, but in creating stories, it’s okay to imagine one.

Maybe this man had an emergency foot transplant, and the only feet available were from a clown who had been killed by an elephant that sat on him!  There…we’ve just covered LOOK, ASK, DECIDE, and we’ve begun to FIND words to explain how your child’s decisions are reasonable [again…for fiction; stories don’t have to always be truly reasonable].  So let’s take my peculiar scenario here and come up with a bit of vivid imagery.

The man’s feet looked like they had been taken from a clown whose feet had been run over by a steamroller.  The look on the man’s face, when he walked, made it obvious he was in pain, and as I noticed the bloody bandages around his ankles I wondered if he had had a foot transplant and ended up with giant clown feet instead of the right size for his body.

I admit my description, here, is pretty ridiculous, but that’s okay; you WANT to encourage zany, far-fetched thinking when teaching storyshowing!   Let’s embellish the next “kid” example:

When Nastassja twirls, her pigtails look like whizzing helicopter blades!

So what might be Nastassja’s secret story?  You might say Nastassja has had ballet lessons or figure skating experience.  Those are pretty good, but let’s really let our imaginations run wild.  Perhaps Nastassja is really the daughter of a once-famous, Russian, ballerina mother, and has been taught ballet since she could walk.

Notice how I’ve created a secret story for Nastassja that almost immediately takes care of LOOK, ASK, & DECIDE?  It appears that way because I have practiced LOOK, ASK, and DECIDE for many years, and I only recently identified these “steps” for the sake of these exercises; it’s not like I’m some sort of genius, here!  So let’s jazz up Nastassja’s story a bit more.

Nastassja looked like a ballerina or ice skater when she twirled.  Her swirling pigtails reminded us of a golden halo or helicopter blades that swished the air, and her face was almost as blurry as hummingbird wings.

Do you see how the use of simile here calls up more vivid imagery in your mind than the first sentence?  Of course, my description, here, deals only with Nastassja’s twirling and her pigtails.  If you were writing more about the girl, you could encourage your child or student to think more about Nastassja’s secret story: what does Nastassja’s voice sound like?  Does she have an accent?  Be careful encouraging kids to get TOO descriptive, though; experienced book publishers will tell you a few, choice phrases often do more to ignite readers’ imaginations, rather than giving SO much detail the reader’s mind has no fun in completing the mental picture!

Remember, when teaching kids the use of simile in storyshowing, to use comparisons that make sense, too.  For example, you wouldn’t say, “The man’s feet were as big as throw cushions.” People wouldn’t normally make such a comparison, would they?  Even kids tend to make comparisons that make sense [to their minds] because the comparisons that come to mind makes sense to them and remind them of something else.   Also keep in mind, when teaching children the use of simile in creative writing, to “borrow” from experiences of their own—it will make for much livelier storyshowing.

Next up: “What is Meta Phor?”

Show Don’t Tell: Finding the ‘Secret Story’

Friday, March 26th, 2010
What's The 'Secret Story'?

How Do We "Show" With Words?

The other day, I mentioned I would talk about what I like to call “The Secret Story.” I would prefer to call it the “Unknown Story”, as this is more accurate, but, for kids, “The Secret Story” is more exciting; more exciting means more memorable, and that means it’s more likely to stick in kids’ minds.

So…what IS “The Secret Story”?

“The Secret Story” is simply an idea I want kids to latch onto to get them thinking in a way that makes it possible for them to become skilled at storyshowing, and to eventually UN-learn story telling when they write.

Please follow my thoughts on this.

In creative writing, to discover what “The Secret Story” is, we should think of reasons WHY things might be the way they are, or the way they APPEAR [smell, feel, etc.]  You can ask your self, “What’s their [the character’s] secret story?” If you’re the one creating the story, then you [might] already know what those reasons are.  But your reader won’t.  So if you’re creating a story, and you haven’t decided or figured it out yet, then you should ask yourself, “Why would things, with my characters, or with my story, be the way they are?”

After you come up with some pretty good reasons to explain why things are the way they APPEAR, [tell kids they can] come to some conclusions, or make decisions that make sense.

Think of it this way: if a man is angry, it might be that someone has stolen his wallet, or perhaps someone has hurt someone in his family, or maybe put them in danger.  Maybe the man thinks someone has done something bad or wrong to him, and he didn’t like it.  There are all sorts of possibilities for reasons to explain, so there could be all sorts of “secret stories”, too!

In one of my previous examples, there was a skinny girl, in an old, torn dress, who was skipping.   Think to your self, if you saw someone like this, “Why is she so skinny? Does her old, torn dress mean she’s poor? Why is she skipping like she’s so happy? I wonder what the reasons are for her being so skinny, while being so apparently poor, yet so happy. I wonder what her ‘secret story’ is.”

Since I’ve started this series on “Show Don’t Tell,” I have thought a great deal about WHY it’s always been so difficult [and not just for kids, but even for adult writers as well] to effectively “show” in creative writing, and I finally came to a realization it’s because this thought of “The Secret—or Unknown—Story”, and because we learn about the world we live in based upon how we physically experience it.

Think about it.

We SEE how something looks.
We SMELL how something smells.
We HEAR how something sounds.
We TOUCH or FEEL how something feels.
We TASTE/SAVOR how something tastes.

These are all sensory experiences, and writing is a way of attempting to express something that is subjective/sensory in origin, to others.  If someone told you about an exotic dessert they ate, which you had never tasted, you would have to rely on their description—and comparisons to things they know you’d eaten before—to gain an understanding of how that dessert might taste…until you tasted it for yourself, right?  The truth is it’s not very easy to convey sensory experiences onto paper.  We use adjectives and adverbs to name and identify those physical experiences, relying on our readers to have experiences of their own to relate to.

The most we can hope for, if we want our readers to sympathize or empathize, is when we “show” using words that bring about feelings or opinions, we count on our readers having had similar experiences, or that they can relate in some way to make their reading of our words meaningful.

So when we “show” using words, we might write something like:

Matt looked like he just crawled out of a mud puddle.
She smelled like an ashtray mixed with a bag of burned popcorn.
Jason’s cries sounded like what a 300-pound baby must sound like.
The Texas summer wind felt like a blow dryer blowing in my face.

When we’re storyshowing, we’re trying to “put our readers” into the action.  When we do so using the same kinds of words or labels [i.e., adjectives and adverbs], we’re obliged to use descriptive wording that’s not really descriptive—at least not in the English Composition sense—but descriptive in the sense we draw comparisons and make inferences others can readily relate to.

So, before I over complicate matters, let’s just leave it at this when teaching kids how to show instead of tell:

LOOK for “ The Secret Story.”
ASK why things are the way they are.
DECIDE on reasons for why things PROBABLY are the way they are.
FIND words to explain how your decisions make sense [e.g., the little girl probably wore the old, torn dress, and was so skinny, because she was, most likely, very poor, and perhaps she was/is skipping so happily because she found a quarter or because she feels loved at home]

I don’t claim this post utterly solves the vexing task of learning how to “show”—and especially teaching kids how to effectively do so in their creative writing—but it should help with making sense of transforming “telling” ideas into prose that ignites readers’ imaginations.

Story SHOWING…With Words

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010
Words CAN Show Images

How Can You Show With Words?

Knowing how to teach the concept of “showing” in creative writing versus “telling” isn’t as easy as it might seem; nor should it be so difficult—IF you’ve got a bright imagination, and a admirable command of English.  Your examples must be, of a necessity, VERY simple and easy to understand—especially when teaching children.

I think the struggle most of us have had with the whole “show don’t tell” concept is we have “story telling” stuck in our heads, along with our early training of using adjectives to describe nouns and pronouns and adverbs to describe—or “modify”—actions and “be” verbs, too.   In some future posts, I’ll get into how it’s better to avoid too many adjectives—at least the really obvious ones—and adverbs [I call them “crutch” words].

The best way, I’ve found, to learn how to “show” a scene, for example, is to go ahead and tell it, then go back and take out the adjectives [the obvious ones, at least], and see if I can’t find a way to bring an image to my own mind using words like, seemed, looked like, felt, appeared, smelled like, etc.  Doing so will naturally lead into using simile and eventually metaphor, both of which we’ll get into at a future date.

Until then…don’t over-think it! Start with some simple examples to begin to get the hang of this.

Here are some examples:

1. The big cat snoozed lazily on the rocking chair.
2. The skinny girl in the old, torn, dress skipped happily along the sidewalk.
3. An angry man quickly ran toward us.
4. The tall man’s head almost touched the ceiling.

These examples are fine, but don’t do much to bring vivid images to our minds, now do they?

So…using some words that appeal to imagination and feeling(s) [we’re teaching these things to kids, after all], let’s see if we can change each sentence into something more vibrant to the mind’s eye.

1. The big cat snoozed lazily on the rocking chair.

Let’s change that into:

What looked like a scoop of ashes in the chair turned out to have ears, a tail, and purred; a cushion-sized, sleeping cat!

Notice how I compared the cat to a scoop of ashes, describing its form and color, being most likely gray?  If you took some time, you could probably think up a more likely comparison that would appeal to a kid.   Also, I compared the cat’s size to a cushion, giving the reader an idea that we’re not talking about a kitten, but a BIG cat!

Next one…

2. The skinny girl in the old, torn, dress skipped happily along the sidewalk.

We’ll change this one to read as such:

The girl looked like she must be very poor and didn’t get to eat very often, but the way she skipped made me wonder if she’d just found a hundred dollars!

Notice how the storyteller, here, observes the skinny girl in a way that allows the reader to draw on images he or she might have in his or her own mind, but infers opinions about the girl that could very well be **reasonable?

**In a future post about showing, I’ll talk about what I like to call “The Secret Story,” and bring up a valuable element of “showing” I’ve never had any instructor, professor, etc, mention, but is SO helpful—even invaluable, in my opinion—to storyshowing.

Onto example #3.

3. An angry man quickly ran toward us.

Let’s jazz it up a bit, using some creative description, to convey the impressions and emotions the reader should feel if he or she were there, with this man running at him or her!

A man with a sunburned-looking, scrunched up face and wild, bulging eyes ran toward us.

Can’t you just see that guy coming at you?   Everyone knows what a sunburned face looks like.  Every kid could show you what “scrunched up” looks like, or “wild, bulging eyes” could look like.  Every one of these bits of imagery are much more brilliant in our minds, are they not?

Finally, last one…#4.

4. The tall man’s head almost touched the ceiling.

Surely, this is a giant of a man!  But to a child, the word “giant” might be too dramatic of a word; so would “Goliath”, as you don’t want to direct their young minds too narrowly.  So let’s use a comparison a kid of today would most likely be able to relate to [again, we’re hoping to teach kids HOW to do this for them selves!]

A man as tall as an NBA basketball player walked through the room, and the hair on his head scraped the bumpy texture off the ceiling!

Not as “sophisticated” as an adult might strive for, but the idea is to get you thinking about how to get children thinking IN THESE WAYS.

Those are just four examples of changing “telling” into showing. Try practicing some of these kinds of exercises with the kids you teach, or for your own fun, if you’ve ever been perturbed by the old “show me, don’t tell me” adage.  You’ll get the hang of it in no time.

In my next post, I’ll talk about “The Secret Story”, and we’ll explore exactly WHY we naturally “tell” and why the WAY we’ve learned to do this, to make these associations, doesn’t work when it comes to transferring those ideas to paper.