Sunday, April 6, 2014
CIGARETTES, BOOZE AND COFFEE
Why show don't tell works differently for male and female characters
These are not only props in any story telling media, they help show the story. Of course, cigarettes do not get the play they once had because of all the discoveries: getting cancer, diminishing many organs, losing teeth, reducing sexual performance, foul mouth odors, etc.
At my critique group on Friday one of the members recommended a recently released Kindle book titled, SHOW DON’T TELL by Parnell. I started reading it and realized men on the average look at show or tell differently than women. Luckily, for romance writers, you need not adjust, but you might want to fine tune when writing in the male POV.
First, here’s a basic example of telling: She’s scared, something fell in the dark room. Somebody else had to be in the room. She felt like screaming.
Showing: She groped for the flashlight, barely holding her balance. Something banged on the floor. Not her doing. Sweat beaded on the back of her neck, somebody else was breathing heavily.
Okay, I just knocked that out, so it might not be the best example.
Tricks of the trade:
Men are sometimes totally or partially color blind. Women are not.
Men often focus on the physical aspects of who or what is before them first. Women often see beyond the physical first and it colors their interpretations of what they see.
Men rarely notice shoes. Often women can’t get enough of them and for that matter often judge by the way someone is dressed. Note to guys, dress appropriately.
For many men the consequence of touching is intimacy. For many women touching is a social bonding opportunity.
I just started thinking about this so I'll need your help with more examples.
Back to cigarettes, booze and coffee.
Regarding any addiction, if either the hero or heroine is sober, one way to show stress instead of saying they feel stressed is for them to pick up a smoke, a drink.
TELLING: Today might change her miserable life. Include more blah, blah here.
SHOWING: She brewed a double espresso instead of the regular java. She pushed the unread morning paper away and sipped. Was it worth it or appropriate for her to accidently-on-purpose talk to him at the (name a place) or should she let him come to her? She sipped again. Hadn’t noticed the birds chirping in quite a while.
She picked up her cup and walked out into her barren garden.
A word of caution. Every fictional story needs a certain amount of telling.
Casablanca, 1942, the male POV
Extra credit ladies, not that you need to practice the female POV. This scene is a mix of Rick and Ilsa but is particularly instructive in showing not telling the female POV.