I recently spoke to the Anthem Authors, a group of men and women who gather weekly in Las Vegas to discuss writing and publishing. They asked me to explain how to show and not tell in their writing, an issue that I see frequently when editing.
With just a little tweaking, I assured them that their writing could be taken from stagnant and passive to active and interesting, and hopefully, the following examples – suggestions – pointed them (and can point you) in the “write!” direction:
Jack was in a state of severe depression.
Jack was severely depressed.
Jack fell off the roof by accident.
Jack accidentally fell off the roof.
To infinitive and beyond!
Jack had to fix the roof.
Jack fixed the roof.
The wind began to whistle through the doors of Jack’s house.
The wind whistled through the doors of Jack’s house.
Gerund – ing:
Jack was hoping to finish the house by summer.
Jack hoped to finish the house by summer.
Jack explained, making a crumpled-up expression on his face.
Jack explained, crumpling up his face.
Jack explained, a crumpled-up expression on his face.
It was a year later that I ran into Jack.
A year later I ran into Jack.
I ran into Jack a year later.
Across the street from Jack’s house there was a park.
Across the street from Jack’s house was a park.
A park was across the street from Jack’s house.
There were a few things Jack still needed to do.
Jack still needed to do a few things.
Jack had an old ladder that was rickety.
Jack had a rickety old ladder.
This is the house that Jack built.
Jack built this house.
Who do you think you are?
Jack has a friend who is a plumber.
Jack’s friend is a plumber.
I’ve had it!
Jack had built the house for Jill.
Jack built the house for Jill.
He said – she said:
“Pleased to meet you,” said the realtor, shaking Jack’s hand.
“Pleased to meet you.” The realtor shook Jack’s hand.
“Come in,” Jack said, beckoning.
“Come in,” Jack beckoned.
He said with a smile on his face.
Jill said, “I love the house you built.”
“Gee, thanks,” said Jack.
“Jack, I love the house you built.”
“Gee, thanks, Jill.”
Speak of the devil:
Jack was the first owner of the house.
Jack was the house’s first owner.