So often we hear about "telling" vs "showing". The idea is to immerse the reader so thoroughly in a literary experience that they forget they're reading. Successful authors suck the readers in by the senses--all five, and keep them feeling the whole journey long. We've all had the experience. You're on page one, and suddenly you're on the last chapter, gasping for breath and reliving the final scene against the back of your eyelids.
Telling words smack readers in the face and remind them that they're holding a book (or e-reader). My advice? DON'T USE THEM!
Easier said than done, right? Today lets look at one example of things to avoid.
Sample (bad): First Marty picked up the mirror, then stepped out onto the back porch. Finally, he lifted it toward the sun...
Problem: Sequence words--listing the order in which he did things. Why not just use bullet points, eh? There is nothing that screams, "I'M TELLING YOU WHAT'S HAPPENING" worse than listing them. Ax sequence words before they ax you.
Sample (better): Marty picked up the mirror. He stepped onto the back porch and lifted it toward the sun.
Analysis: Right to the action. This is stronger. Is it the best thing out there? No, but you can see for yourself how listing sequences is unnecessary and distracting. PLEASE avoid them.
Ready to go WAY beyond this simple little lesson? If you truly want to suck your readers into the moment, help them FEEL it through the five senses. Isolate the emotion you want the reader to experience and create an atmosphere through simile, metaphor, imagery and word choice.
Example (immersive): Marty's fingers slipped around the cool plastic hand mirror. His grip tightened as he shoved through the swinging door. Fractured light danced off the reflective surface, coating the splintered porch in puddles of light. He heaved a breath and lifted it toward the sun.
Suddenly we have a hint he's got some trepidation. We experience the lack of heat in the mirror, the tension in his movement, the roughness of his surroundings, the contradiction in smooth puddles of light. If I were reading that paragraph, I'd want to know why he's anxious and what's going to happen next.
Alright, writerly friend, what words of wisdom can you add?