It is not unusual for writers’ groups to take a day or two for a writer’s retreat, and our local writers’ group is no exception. One of our members is put in charge; usually it is my husband, and he is tasked with coming up with a program.
Today was our retreat and Rob’s idea was to the introduce the subject of showing, not telling as discussed in chapter one of Renni Browne’s and Dave King’s Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to edit yourself into print.
The authors use the example of The Great Gatsby to show the difference showing and telling, between narrative summary and scenes. At the end of the chapter, there are a few exercises, one of which we all completed in our unique way.
Here is the exercise: Take the following bit of narrative summary and convert it into a scene. Hint: feel free to create any characters or elaborate on the settings.
Once you got off Route 9W, though, you were in another world, a world where two streets never met at a right angle, where streets, in fact, didn’t exist. Instead you had courts, terraces, ways, and a landing or two. And lining these street-like things were row on row of little houses that could be distinguished, it seemed, only by the lawn ornaments. Travelers who disappeared into the developments had been known to call taxis just to lead them out again.
Penelope was heading to her friend’s home in Belgravia. She and Astrid were going shopping.
“Where does Google map say to turn again?” she asked herself. She pulled over on the shoulder of Route 9W to read the printout. “Damn, I missed that turn back there.”
Looking around for any cops, Penny pulled a U-turn and headed back down the road, turning left onto Lois Lane. “What were they thinking when they named this subdivision?” she wondered aloud.
Lois Lane suddenly curved to the right and then to the left as Penelope tried to follow the directions. “Tony the Tiger Terrace? Bluto’s Landing? Yosemite Sam’s Trail? Aren’t any of these roads straight?”
Between the lawn ornaments that matched the various road names she’d traversed and pure luck, she finally arrived at Astrid’s home, the one with the pink flamingo in the front. Penny didn’t know how she had twisted and turned her way there, but suddenly she wished she had left a trail of bread crumbs to find her way out. Exhausted, she knocked on Astrid’s door.
Astrid opened the door, invited Penelope in, and gave her friend a big hug. “Are you ready to hit the stores, Penny?”
“Only if we can there from here.”
Astrid laughed. “That’s what everyone says. It is so easy once you know the secret.”
“Yeah, the street signs are holograms, and the names change weekly. I think this week’s theme is Sixties pop culture. We joke that we don’t want people discovering our little corner of Belgravia. Fortunately, local cabbies know the way in and out.
“Now, let’s go shopping; I’ll drive.”
~Nancy Brady, 2019
For those who are new to writing full-length novels, this book is a great addition to any library.