The standard rule is this: “show, don’t tell.” Instead of telling your reader that Jane is “sad,” show the reader by describing Jane’s demeanor, her tears, etc. You’re supposed to allow the reader to experience Jane’s sadness with her.
But in a 80,000 word manuscript, chances are you’ll do at least some telling. The temptation to “tell” usually arises when you need to share background information, summarize events, or provide context for what’s happening.
Will you be chasing it?
Today is the first time in nearly 40 years that a total solar eclipse will be visible from mainland United States. In other words, the moon will briefly block the sun in the middle of the day and Americans may actually be able to see it (with special glasses).
Have you heard of Girl With a Pearl Earring?
It’s a painting by a 17th Century Dutch painter named Johannes Vermeer. Author Tracy Chevalier first saw it when she was 19 and couldn’t stop thinking about it. Who was the girl in the painting? How did she get there?
I’ve had the book On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser on my shelf since my pre-law school journalism days. That is, I’ve had it on my shelf for a while. I don’t remember who gave it to me, but I do remember how it made me feel.
It made me feel like I could be a better writer.
Did you see the first season of Top Chef? It was hosted by someone widely criticized for not bringing insight to food. That person was quickly replaced by renowned chef Padma Lakshmi. What about Food Network Star? Where contestants compete for their own show judge equally on their cooking and presentation skills?
The host change in Top Chef and the emphasis on descriptive skills on Food Network Star demonstrate how vital it is for these shows to be able to not just make food, but describe it.