Show, don't tell.
Scary words, at least for someone who lived and breathed the classics in her younger days. Many of the classics are written in third person and often didn't reveal the antagonist's innermost feelings and POV. It was all overview, a sweeping panorama of all the events taking place.
Let's just say since I've published my medieval trilogy, I've learned many readers prefer the second person and show, don't tell. Which is fine. I never really intended to stick with classical style after my series was complete. I've gotten the opportunity to practice new techniques. And writers need to grow.
But how exactly do you show, not tell? Here are some examples of telling.
Emma walked into the Starbucks, ordered some coffee, and sat down. She opened her laptop, realized it was low on charge, and nearly cried.
Totally, completely boring. There is no life, no sense of reality, not POV. Just the overall facts.
To effectively create your protagonist's (or antagonist, as the case may be) POV (point of view), you have to see the world through their eyes. Not above, looking down from ceiling fan or wherever you choose to be. Taste what they taste, feel what they feel, and cry when they do. Taking the same story, let's work on our showing.
Emma smiled at the young man walking out of Starbucks, allowing him to hold the door open for her. Stepping into the warmth, she paused. Inhaling, she basked in the scents of French and Italian roasts. How long had it been since she had bought an espresso?
She walked up to the counter, making eye contact with the cute pig-tailed barista. There was no need to peruse the menu. "Hi. I'll have a hazelnut mochiatto please."
The barista took her credit card, swiping it. Secretly, Emma wondered how many times a day she had to handle other people's cards. The germs... Just thinking about it made her finger the Bath and Body hand sanitizer attached to her purse strap.
"Here you go!"
Emma blinked. That was fast. She took the coffee, remembering to murmur some thanks. Deftly, she walked over to a vacant table. Perfect. Positioned right next to a window, her chosen seat offered a perfect view of the busy intersection and park.
Eagerly, she opened her laptop and pushed the on button. While waiting for her computer to load, she sipped her coffee. Its creamy sweetness and strong espresso flavor was just what she needed.
Emma blinked, aghast at the computer's warning. Her laptop had 5 minutes of battery time. And she had forgotten the power cord. How could this have happened? She had deliberately forced time in her hectic schedule just for this moment, just so she could have some time alone.
"No!" She covered her mouth too late, realizing her muffled protest. She wanted to cry. All her planning, her sacrifices, her late night study hours just to give herself some time today. And now this.
"Is anything wrong, miss?"
Emma looked up. The scent of masculine cologne hit her nostrils, and she immediately met the bluest eyes she had ever seen.
Hahah! Yes, I am ending there. What do you think? Do you get the idea of show, not tell? Now for your assignment!
Finish the story in a comment below, using the tips you've learned!
Alicia A. Willis is a home-school graduate, published author, and avid historian. She is a firm believer in the principle that one can accomplish anything by substantial amounts of prayer and coffee. Visit her at her blog to view her historical-fiction novels and all the goings-on between writing!