Before I get going on this week's topic, I'd like to open this page up to you, the reader. What would you like me to write about here? What questions do you have for me, about writing, or for anyone, about anything? Leave your suggestions in the comments, and I will do what I can for you!
This week, however, I will talk about senses. One of the most oft-repeated phrases a new writer hears from critics, teachers, and especially editors, is "show, don't tell". Basically, this means to tap into the reader's memories so that the reader can experience what's happening, rather than just imagining it. For example, if a story you're reading was describing a scene at a county fair, it might go something like this: The midway was crowded with people, and littered with trash. Scott couldn't take two steps without bumping into someone or wading through empty food containers and soft drink cups. Several times, Scott glimpsed a rat tail disappearing under a garlic-fry paper boat, or into a discarded ice cream cone. Fairly descriptive, if I do say so myself, but consider this version: Scott's nose wrinkled involuntarily as the mingled aromas of stale hot dogs, cold popcorn, and half-digested chili burgers invaded his nostrils and ransacked his sinus cavities. His ears rang with the raucous shouts of children and screams of mothers as the roller coaster entered its final plunge. He watched as a young man tested his strength with the hammer, sending the block soaring towards the bell, along with a fine spray of nervous perspiration; a physiological response to the fear that he might disappoint his pretty, but infamously shallow, date. Scott wiped the foreign sweat from his face, but could feel it clinging to his hair, and back of his neck.. The rustle of paper drew Scott's attention, and he watched a plump rat crawl into the open hole of a red-rimmed Icee cup.
Hopefully, you'll agree that the second example makes for better reading. If not, I should probably give up now. It's better because it involves the reader's senses, or more precisely, the reader's memories of the senses. The first passage tells the reader what is there, while the second encourages the reader to remember experiencing the smell of cold popcorn, the sound of screaming children, the feel of someone else's flying sweat. If I may toot my own horn a bit, it even suggests the feel of a plummeting roller coaster, and the taste of a cherry Icee. Not all of that may have come through for every reader - remember, I'm still new at this - but I feel confident that a lot more of it came through in the second passage than in the first.
This is what the writer that cares about his or her reader attempts to achieve. We want you to experience our stories, not just imagine them. Hopefully, you'll find that I care enough about your reading experience to not force you to rely on imagination.
Remember to leave a comment about what you'd like me to discuss on here in future weeks! And please share this if you know someone who might benefit from the content.