Oh heavens, all writers have heard that phrase a zillion times. But I have a new perspective on it this week.
I recently watched The Notebook. A pretty good movie, even if the ending is a tear-jerker. (I had to explain to DG that while it’s not a happy ending, it is an “emotionally satisfying” ending, which is what’s important in women’s fiction.) Now, I’m probably the last person on the planet to see this movie, as I’m desperately far behind in all movie viewing, so I don’t think I’ll be spoiling much with this blog.
I was kind of rooting for Lon, Ally’s fiancé—not Noah, the hero. Noah, after all, went a little off-balance after Ally left, bordering on crazy and kind of creeped me out a bit with his behavior. But I knew Lon was toast after Noah exemplified “Show, Don’t Tell.”
There’s a scene when Ally tells her fiancé, “I used to paint.” He, being a perfectly nice guy, tells her, “Then paint.” No questions; no problems. Just, “Then paint.”
Noah, on the other hand, never tells Ally to paint. Instead, she wakes up to find he’s left her art supplies in a room with wonderful light and a beautiful view. He’s also left her alone so she can use the supplies.
Neither man opposes her desire to paint, but Noah “shows” while Lon just “tells.” Noah gets it; fiancé doesn’t. Who does Ally choose in the end? Noah, of course.
There are those around us who pay lip service to our dreams. They tell us they support us, but they never show us. Like the spouse that claims to be supportive—as long as your dreams don’t interfere with cooking dinner or his poker night. The siblings, parents, and children who support you “110%,” until they need you to do something during your writing time—like iron a shirt or locate soccer cleats or come and wait at their house for the cable guy to show up. They talk the talk, but never, ever walk the walk.
Show, Don’t Tell is important for writers to remember in their books, but I think we all need to insist on more showing and less telling in our lives as well. As writers, many of us had to have Show, Don’t Tell explained to us—in simple, concise sentences with clear examples. Don’t be afraid to explain the concept to those around you in your daily life the same way—in simple, concise sentences with clear examples.
It’s certainly worth a shot, right?
I wish you all a 2007 filled with lots of Show.