The Joys of Writing – Setting the scene

Show, don’t tell.  Writers and students are told this over and over again starting in third grade.  It’s one of the hardest things we do – creating a scene and putting the reader into it, rather than just relating the scene to them.

I spent the afternoon working on some descriptive scene exercises.  The street was lined with oak trees became: “Spanish moss draped across the canopy of branches, creating a pergola of oak over the street.”  The cornfield was dead became: “Dry, sun-burnt husks wilted on the cornstalks in the late summer heat.”  Linda broke the plate became: “Linda stared down at the white porcelain shards that now created a mosaic within the kitchen sink.”

Then I turned to my current WIP, to take an example of Telling and reworking it to Show.

And I couldn’t find an example.

And that bothers me more than it should.  Because I know there are instances where I’ve done it.  I’m just completely blind to it within my own work.

The WIP is going…well.  But not.  Well, in that I’m Getting There.  Not in that I’m not going to make the deadline I promised myself (and my husband) several months ago.  And that makes me feel a bit like a failure.  Which, of course, affects my writing.  Which further affects the deadline.  Vicious cycle, and all that.

Just keep on keeping on, right?  I’m trying not to get distracted with other writing tasks.  Right now I need to fully finish the story.  Not go back and change my character’s eye color in all the scenes (which will happen).  Not go back and add in descriptive details of the setting (which will happen).  Not go back and check for adverbs (which will happen).  It all needs to be done, but I’ll get halfway through and just have to do it all over again.  Assuming, of course, I actually ever finish the damn story.

I’m really bad about that.  I have polished beginnings for half a dozen books…and none of them are finished.  It’s the endings I need to work on.  The endings I need to actually write.

I’ve always heard that when it comes to editing, books tend to decrease in word count. I don’t have that problem.  I add.  Well, I subtract, too, but I add in a lot of description.  Eyes, hair, make and model of car.  In my first draft, I don’t consider that stuff to be super important (unless specifically tying into the plot).

Hmm…does that mean my first draft isn’t my first draft, but instead is more of a detailed outline?

Wait…does that make me a (gasp!) plotter?!

*sigh*  Back to writing…

So, how about some great advice on Showing, not Telling?  Here are 5 articles that might help you out:

Is there a source you’ve found online to help with writing scene description?  Please share!

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Categories: On Writing, Writer Sara Johnson | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “The Joys of Writing – Setting the scene

  1. anonymous

    Joyce O’Wrighton – there’s your pen name.

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