Ah, Come On Baby, Stop Teasing, Show Me, Show Me, Show Me (Show, Don't Tell)Written by Jeff Colburn
It's been a hard day. You settle into your most comfortable chair with book you just bought. All you want to do is get lost in a good story for awhile. You open book and begin to read. Which of following would let you know that you're really holding a book that you can get lost in?
"Jack was nervous as he entered boardroom."
"Jack entered boardroom. He felt knot in his stomach tighten as thirty five sets of eyes stared at him. A downpour of sweat soaked his armpits, and shirt. Trickles of sweat even rolled down his back. He was glad to have on his heavy dark jacket. The chairman cleared his throat disapprovingly. Jack's mouth went so dry it felt like he hadn't swallowed in years. When he glanced at chairman, his stomach rumbled. Jack prayed he wouldn't need to make a mad dash to bathroom.
In first example, author expects reader to do all work, while in second, he has done his job as a writer. He has described scene with enough detail so that reader can feel man's discomfort, in all of its nasty aspects.
Telling a scene in a story instead of showing is one of most common mistakes that new, and not so new, writers make.
There are two techniques I use to insure that I show and don't tell. First, I imagine that I am explaining something to someone from Mars, who has not experienced anything on Earth. The next thing I do is ask myself what senses are involved. If reader were in scene, what would he or she see, hear, smell, taste and feel?
Who Said That? (First, Second Or Third Person)Written by Jeff Colburn
I often have writers ask me which person they should write in, first, second or third. Deciding if a story should be told with "I said,you said, or he/she said" can be daunting to many writers. This question is most difficult to decide in fiction. For that reason, I will address this article to all of you fiction writers.
There are pros and cons to each person. Let me give you some examples so we are all talking about same thing.
This example comes from a short story of mine called "First Blood."
Third Person, also called Omniscient (This is how it was written for publication.): "Damn them all to seven hells of Anthion," Klempf yelled, as he took another direct hit. His head throbbed from being thrown against control panel. A small trickle of red blood ran down between his blond eyebrows.
Second Person: "Damn them all to seven hells of Anthion," you yelled, as your ship took another direct hit. Your head throbbed from being thrown against control panel. A small trickle of red blood ran down between your blond eyebrows.
First Person: "Damn them all to seven hells of Anthion," I yelled, as my ship took another direct hit. My head throbbed from being thrown against control panel. A small trickle of red blood ran down between my blond eyebrows.
As you can see, each paragraph has a distinctly different flavor.
Second person is very seldom used in fiction. To me, it seems to be paternal and distancing when someone keeps saying, "You, you, you." It lacks involvement of characters in story. Don't get me wrong, it can be used in a story, but it must be done very carefully.
The most frequently used persons are first and third.
First person has advantage of being very personal. "I did this. I did that." The reader will know exactly what character is thinking and what they believe, even if story shows character is wrong. One of disadvantages is that reader doesn't know anything that character doesn't know. If a character is standing in one room, he doesn't know what is happening anywhere else. You couldn't say, "Darek stood in living room, unaware that Jim was in garden, with a rifle aimed at Darek's chest." That would be third person. Now you could say, "I stood in living room facing bay window. A glint of light from something in garden caught my attention. Too late, I realized glint came from a rifle scope, bullet ripped into my chest, and world darkened." This would have to be end of story, because there wouldn't be anyone left to tell story, unless you have character's ghost continue story.