Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Teacher Learns to “Show, Not Tell”

I'm thick into NaNo and realizing that I can describe something to death-- but making up something that hasn't ever existed except in my mind is really HARD for me! As I push along at the keyboard and struggle to produce (gulp!) 2,000 words a day, I barrage myself with hundreds of questions: What will Anna Katherine, my 12-soon-to-be-13-year-old protagonist say or do next? What words would she use? What hand gestures or facial expressions would show her feelings? I am aware that every snippet of conversation can take her and my other characters in multitudes of directions and the possibilities overwhelm me.

I feel like I'm floundering in deep water with some knowledge of how to swim and hoping I can finish the race. Although I talk about show, don't tell in lots of workshops, I am at home doing that in nonfiction. This plunge into fiction is another story all together. (Pun intended.) I am more comfortable narrating what Katie (her nickname) did last summer than showing what she is saying, thinking, or doing in the moment.

So what is helping me? Remembering my own acronym for showing a character- FAST.

  • F- Feelings
  • A-Action
  • S-Speech
  • T- Thoughts

It's nice that my own book is informing my writing! I am convinced that this foray into fiction will not only move me toward making my dream of writing a book for young readers become reality, but it will make me a better writing teacher also.

Last night at a writing workshop at South County Library I happily concurred with my teen participants that "plot holes" happen. Now I know the pains of dialogue that doesn't sound authentic; the reality of making all of the details fit together into a cohesive whole.

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