How Not To Ruin Your Writing: Showing Sight
'Show, don't tell' is probably the most repeated writing advice out there. While I believe in a healthy balancing of elements, you won't learn what works unless you experiment and practice.
The following writing advice comes from Kayla. She advises on ways you can use the five senses to utilize 'show, don't tell' writing.
Read her thoughts on writing about 'sight'. Click here to check out what she has to say about the rest of the senses.
One of the easiest ways to go about elaborating sight is to eliminate words related to vision (look, saw, gazed, peek, etc). It also helps to stay aware of items, colors, sizes, etc. Do the same thing you’d do with words related to sight, eliminate them. Of course, don’t erase every word or phrase, but being proactive, keeping them in mind, and avoiding them will help you avoid overloading your reader with too much purple prose. (Granted, I would die for purple prose, but I understand that’s not everyone’s thing).
Jill saw Jack running. He carried a silver pail. He tripped and fell down the hill.
There are a lot of sight-words in this example. As the writer, it is your decision to choose what you want to elaborate on, whether it is one thing, or all of them. How much of the story you want to paint is up to you—
Jack’s feet blurred against the green grass as his toe caught his ankle. He rolled on his side, his silver pail flying into the air and reaching Jill first.
Jill craned her neck to find Jack staggering down the hill. Water sloshed from the sides of the bucket, swinging and glistening in the sunlight. He stumbled and grabbed for the handle with his second hand as the pail threatened to leave his grasp, and then he slipped, toppling down the hill. In both of these scenarios, the reader can “see” that Jack is running and tripped without specifically stating that Jill saw it. They also “see” he had a silver pail and dropped it.
In both of these scenarios, the reader can “see” that Jack is running and tripped without specifically stating that Jill saw it. They also “see” he had a silver pail and dropped it.
Being more visually descriptive is also very important for facial expressions. It takes a simple mood and elevates it. Describing the expression also gives the reader the chance to “feel” that way too, almost like a mimic, which helps them visualize and empathize with the character.
Maxine made a disgusted face.
Think of what a disgusted reaction looks like; usually, it involves frowning, pinching your nose, sticking out your tongue, etc. Sometimes, it can help to look in a mirror and write what you’re seeing, too.
Maxine flared her nostrils and stuck out her tongue.
In the latter example, the reader is able to infer that Maxine is disgusted by how the writer described her reaction.
Click here for more of Kayla's blog