By Lisa Lopez Snyder
Columbia II Writers Workshop
Lately I’ve been focusing on exercises to help me show rather than tell something about a character, conflict or anything else in a particular scene. Here are a couple ideas I found useful:
1. First, write a sentence or two that describes the scene (and use action verbs). The sentences should answer the question, “What’s happening in this scene?”
John discovers his wife is having an affair with his best friend.
Then write this scene with dialogue, description, etc., as if you were watching it on film. Visualize it. Write without stopping. Look it over, then revise and revise.
Joan looked up from her book as John entered.
He slammed the door behind him. “What’s this?” he demanded. His hand shook as he held up the crumpled letter, his face red and feverish.
Joan let the tattered book fall from her lap. She felt her body freeze. “I--I can explain.” Her voice was thick and slow.
2. Another idea: Visualize your scene, then, without stopping, write down all the visuals and textures that make up the scene.
For example: tattered curtain, blue couch, crumpled letter, face turning red, open door, light rain, dark clouds, narrow hallway, steamed dumplings, rusted teapot, etc.
Then write a scene that connects these elements with your characters, using action and dialogue, and see where it takes you. Don’t feel you need to use everything you wrote down.