Back to Showing again.

I’ve started reading a book called The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert.

One thing that has jumped out at me is the way Elizabeth puts a spotlight on things she finds important. Meaning instead of saying

Beatrix hoped her daughter would grow into someone important, Elizabeth wrote:


She prayed that her daughter would grow up to be healthy and sensible and intelligent, and would never form associations with overly powerdered girls, or laugh at vulgar stories, or sit at gaming tables with careless men, or read French novels, or behave in a manner suited only to a savage Indian, or in any way whatsoever become the worse sort of discredit to a good family, namely, that she not grow up to be enn onnozelaar, a simpleton.


Notice how much information is packed into that small paragraph. We see the Mother’s personality drilled straight to the reader. Mother is

  • Probably a rich woman who came from a ‘good family.’ A lot of pride there.
  • She wants her daughter to have a great and respected upbringing. In other words, she would be a Lady and not a ‘simpleton’.
  • Could the mother be doing this for her or for her daughter? It seems this is more for mom that for the baby. Why not just say, I want her to explore herself and find out who she is in life. To find job that she will love and love life. Instead the mom focused on her daughter being the Star of the family.

That’s the joy of Showing. It allows you, the writer, to dig deep into a character and to find out more of who they are as opposed to a person on a page.

So how do you do this? You start by not worrying about how it will sound to others. You drop your defenses and jump in. You just let it flow out of you. Notice how Elizabeth’s words have almost a rhythem to them like a bubbling creek has a rhythem to it. That’s the place you want to be. The words seem to flow together to become something bigger than words on a page. It has life. The more you worry that the reader won’t get it, the worse a writer you will become, so stop worrying!!! Don’t compare to someone else and PLEASE!! Don’t allow other writers to tell you that your style is WRONG. It’s not ‘wrong’, it’s not their style or how they would direct the story. You’re the captain of your own ship.  Yes, you do need advice on things you are doing wrong, but some writers would take Elizabeth’s beautiful paragraph and tell her to make it simplier. “Just write that the mother wanted something bigger for her daughter.” Boring!!! Not to mention, it’s not Elizabeth, it’s someone else. Boring!! So be you!!!

This is the hardest thing to writing. It’s like learning to ride a bike. It looks terrifying but once you get the hang of it, you will speed onto new adventures. So take a deep breath and just write what comes to your mind. Don’t worry about what others will think, just write until you feel like you’ve connected with your character and start to see them as they really are, not as you want them to be.

It’s hard to explain how to write in your own voice. You write without worrying about what others think or feel. You write what you want to read and explore, not what you think others want you to do. You write what becomes natural to you.


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