Thursday, April 14, 2011

TOP 10 WAYS TO SHOW INSTEAD OF TELL - PART 3

Don’t filter the POV character’s senses
Definition = mentioning that the POV character senses something (i.e. using verbs like saw, heard, felt)

Why shouldn’t we mention the POV character’s senses
1) When we state that the character senses something, we are telling readers that the character sensed something rather than showing them what the character sensed.

2) Readers already understand they are experiencing everything through the POV character. To state that the character feels, hears, or sees something, therefore, puts distance between the readers and the character. It reminds readers that they’re not in the character’s head after all, which is what we want them to feel.

3) It minimizes the impact of the action by making "saw", "heard", or "felt" the main verb rather than the verb that shows the actual action.

How to fix filtering
Instead of telling the sense used, simply show what the character saw, felt, heard, etc.

EXAMPLES:
DON’T: She watched Jonathan as he stormed down the stairs and out to the car.
DO: Jonathan stormed down the stairs and out to the car.

DON’T: He saw her step tiptoe around the lilac bush.
DO: She tiptoed around the lilac bush.

DON’T: He felt his heart race.
DO: His heart raced.

The exception
When something happens that the POV character can't see, hear, or feel, it is more difficult to state how the character knows what’s going on without. Perhaps he is blindfolded, can't hear due to the noise in the room, or is hiding. We still need to know what's going on around him, but can't show it through the sense the character would normally use. Even in these cases, though, we can let the reader know the character hears instead of sees by writing about the sound rather than saying "he heard." Every great once in a while a sensory verb needs to be used to indicate how the POV character knew what was going on, but most of the time we can show it by describing actions rather than telling the senses.

EXAMPLE:
Let's say an intruder has entered the POV character's bedroom, so she hides under her bed.

Filtering = She heard the intruder open the closet and search through her clothes.
Corrected = The closet door slid along its track and the hangers screeched across the rod as the intruder shuffled through her clothes.


The descriptions of the sounds tell the reader that the woman knew what the intruder was doing by the sounds he made.

By watching for and taking out sensory verbs, you show the action better rather than tell what's going on.

GO TO PART 4 - More on Filtering
RETURN TO LIST OF TOP 10 WAYS TO SHOW INSTEAD OF TELL
VIEW LIST OF ALL TOP 10 SERIES

Suzanne Hartmann - 2011
http://suzanne-hartmann2.blogspot.com

2 comments:

Linnette R Mullin said...

Great examples! Thanks for posting this.

Suzanne said...

I've found that understanding the difference between showing and telling is simply one of those things that you have to demonstrate with examples or else it's extremely hard to completely understand.

I'm glad this post and the examples I gave helped you.