We discussed show vs tell, briefly, during my last meeting with my teen writers. It’s a tricky element of writing that is super important but hard to grasp. So I had them do a fun exercise where I gave them three phrases to pick from and then they had to write a scene that depicted that phrase without using certain words while also conveying some kind of emotion.
For example, one of the phrases was “The man is tall.” But they couldn’t use the word tall and if they wanted to convey sadness, they couldn’t use a variation of sad. It was a fun little exercise to get them to think about showing instead of telling and also word choice to make a scene come across in a certain way.
Because apparently I’m an overachiever, I wrote a little scene for each of the phrases. Can you guess the emotion I was trying to convey?
The man is tall.*
I look up at Josh, a smile twitching on my lips. A glimmer of humor twinkles in his eyes as he reaches his arm up and settles it atop my head as if I’m no more than an armrest. I push him off, laughing anyways.
“Gosh, Rory.” Josh grins. “You’re so short.”
“No,” I say, rolling my eyes. “You’re just a giant.”
A smile breaks across his face. I swear I can hear the birds taking flight in my chest singing.
*I actually changed “man” to “boy” but whatever.
The dog is old.
The dog pushes himself to his paws, knees wobbly as he stumbles forward. His graying snout twitches as his cloudy eyes survey the room. Tail wagging slightly, he limps to the blanket heaped at the end of the couch and gently picks up his bone.
Her hair is long.
Sunshine filters through the tree leaves, casting golden light onto Grace’s freckled face. She laughs, eyes squeezed closed as she spins on the tire swing. Her hair whooshes around her face with every sway, the red tendrils drifting wild in the breeze.
I reach out and push against her back, ignoring the way my fingers tingle against her cotton t-shirt or the way my stomach jerks as if I’m the one on the tire instead.
Her green eyes open, shining brighter than the sunshine surrounding us.
I hope summer never ends.