[Tipster] Writers Have Words Only

tipster post Sep 23, 2022

Melissa and I just attended a terrific conference called STORY in Nashville.

We presented a breakout session called "The 5 Elements of Putting Your Story to Words."

Many of the attendees were brand marketers, designers, and creators of all kinds of digital products, and other goods and services.

A few were writers.

The speakers were fantastic, the videos and visuals in the presentations were breathtaking.

Every presenter trumpeted the power of story. To change one's life. And to change the world.

On one level, it's fully true that you, as a writer, are in the story-telling business.

If you can't tell a good story, you won't hold your reader's attention for more than a page or two.

No one wants to read information only.

It's Always about Showing, Not Telling

But writers have a herculean job to do when story telling.

It's relatively easy to say as a brand or as a marketer, "We tell stories for our products and services."

They have more tools - images, video, and audio (voice, music, etc.) - to story-tell.

You, as a writer, do not.

You have words only.

So you can't "tell a story." You'll bore your reader.

You're not a designer.

You don't have an image to show your readers. You have to paint an image with your words.

You're not a videographer.

You can't show a close-up of the roll of the eyes or facial anger.

You can't just write, "She was angry."

You must show that she is angry ... using words:

"Her lips trembled ever so slightly, and then she cupped her hand and slapped him on the back of the head."

You have no audio.

So, you have to write words in such a way that the reader hears the crickets that interrupt the silence.

You have words only. And words alone.

Your Last Ten Pages

Here's a quick assignment. Review the last ten pages that you wrote:

1. Are you telling what happened? Or are you showing what happened?

2. Do you have clear scenes that paint a picture for the imagination of your reader?

3. If you are writing nonfiction, are you merely burping out information? Or are you layering your writing with anecdotes and stories and illustrations that show the point you want to make.

If your writing sucks, it sucks because you don't show. You tell.

Any writer can learn to show. Showing is a skill. It's a skill you can learn.

We all can get better at showing.

Writers don't tell stories. Writers show stories.

Now, buckle up and show!