Friday, May 04, 2007

Show and Tell...

We all remember show and tell at school right? You'd take some object from home, or maybe a picture to school and then you'd show it to the class and then you'd tell them about it and why it was special enough to you to be brought to school.

I remember taking my "Little Pillow" once. It's this pillow measuring maybe 11X11 made out of the silky blue fabric of my mother's maternity night gown, with practically no stuffing in it. So it's sort of a pillow/blanket/cloth scrap. I enjoyed a very friendly kindergarten class and we were all pretty close.

The day I took it to school I had my mother place it in a sealed plastic jumbo bag before placing it safely into my backpack. Then I guarded it all day until it was time to take out show and tell. Even then, I kept it in the bag until the very last moment. Relunctantly, I withdrew it from the bag. When I held it up, a look of fascination came across the faces of most of my classmates... Some were nose pickers and couldn't get fascinated with anything further than three inches from their face.

I shook a little. It's difficult to expose a weakness for an object to other people. But I held the pillow close and rubbed it between my fingers as I explained to the class what it was and how I had come about getting it.

Later on during the day when I was at the building block station a little boy got irritated with me because I wouldn't hang my backpack on the rack and he felt it was in his way. Boys. He was one of the nose pickers. When he went to reach for it, a friend of mine pushed him. An inevitable argument broke out with my friend yelling at him that I had something special in there.

I read the recent article in the RWR about showing, not telling. And for some odd reason it brought this memory to mind. After thinking about it for a while, I realize the words I said about the pillow that day were pretty remote. It's fabric and my mom sewed it for me. What kid doesn't have something their mom made for them?

But the reason my friend reacted so strongly was because she had SEEN what the object was to me. My inability to let it go for fear it would disappear (obviously there were other issues at play which wouldn't come to light until much later), the way I had subconsciously used it for comfort when I started my showing and telling. All of these non-verbal cues told my classmates a lot more than what I said. Maybe that's why booger boy made the mistake he made. He hadn't been paying attention to anything other than what I said well and the obvious.

In my writing I find I often do a LOT of telling in the first draft. It's just faster. I can say. "She was nervous." in 3 words. But showing can sometimes take a bit more thought and writing. So this go round my word goal is shorter than my ultimate goal so I have plenty of room to erase all of those 3 word telling sentences.

Oh yeah... Booger boy got sent to the corner for touching something that wasn't his. And thankfully my friend didn't get in trouble. I still have "Little Pillow" actually, it's "Little Pillow II". The first one got ragged from my rubbing it and sleeping with it. The second one had been made at the same time but had too much stuffing for my small hands. So my mom just took stuffing out of it. But it's tucked in a drawer where it's safe and sound. My hubby thinks it's an abomination. But he's too sweet to suggest I get rid of it.

What about you? Any trouble showing or telling? Or have you found a way it relates to everyday life?



Sarah L. Catherine said...

Great story, April!

Participating in Avon Fanlit showed me that telling is a story killer.

It took me a long time to grasp showing v. telling and make it work for me... but like you, I tend to take the easy way if something doesn't automatically come to me. Sometimes I'll even highlight place I know I want to say something more for when I come back through.

There's also a difference between "narrative" and "introspection", and I try to limit the narrative and stay in deep POV.

Cole said...

Wow April! I can't wait to read your new ms now!!!! :) And yes, I tend to do as you mention... get the gist down and then later work on making it come to life. :)


Lis said...

I do the same thing in my early drafts, then fix it it later :)

Dara Edmondson said...

I'm with you on first drafts. I send my first draft to my crit partners and always see a "Telling" commnet!

Julie S said...

Guilty. I tell alot in my first draft. But I know I do it, and I know how to recognize it, so it gets fixed. If I don't write it down the quick and easy way first, I'll lost the thought and it's gone forever.

Henri de Montmorency said..., not tell. That's what I tell the ladies, but they just aren't getting it.

Julie S said...

I tagged you! :-)

Shelli Stevens said...

That's sweet, and a great story! I tagged you too by the way. LOL. I used to be a big telling person. But I think I've gotten better. I hope so! LOL.