I was watching last night’s American Idol on TiVo as I drank my first cup of coffee this morning. Cutie sixteen-year-old Aaron Kelly sang a Rascal Flatts song I’d never heard before. (I like country music all right, but I rarely pay much attention to it.) I didn’t catch the title when Ryan Seacrest introduced him, but as Aaron sang the opening verse, my writer’s ears perked up.
It begins, "I can hear the truck tires coming up the gravel road / And it’s not like her to drive so slow, (must be) nothing on the radio / Footsteps on the porch, I hear my doorbell / She usually comes right in…"
These lines demonstrate perfectly the power of Show, Don’t Tell descriptions. There was no doubt in my mind that something was wrong, that “she” was the bearer of bad news. The anticipation I felt and the strong mood those opening words created made the chorus that much more poignant: "Here comes goodbye / Here comes the last time / Here comes the start of every sleepless night / The first of every tear I’m gonna cry."
Showing descriptions pull your readers into the story. By asking your audience to pick up on the important clues sprinkled across each sentence, to connect the dots and reach the correct conclusions, you invite readers to participate in the story. Reader interaction can’t be underestimated. Your readers will become emotionally involved on a deeper level with the characters and plot, which boosts the overall entertainment factor of your work.
When do you concentrate the most on writing showing descriptions? Does it come naturally to you and appear in your first drafts/word vomitting sessions? Or do you comb through your scenes during the revision process and incorporate showing descriptions where you just "told" in the first draft? Or both?