Creative Writing Day 31 – Last Day of Prompts

I had a very good reason for skipping yesterday’s writing prompt: The Hay Festival!

I went there in the morning and stayed in the lovely village until evening, when I watched the fantastic Caitlin Moran talk about her new book ‘Moranifesto’ (which I haven’t yet finished reading, but let’s not get into that…).

When I got back home – amidst deers, hedgehogs, badgers, foxes, shooting stars, and a number of other things I am just forgetting to mention – it was already 2am. A bit to late to write anything that could make even just a little bit of sense.

Today, thought, it’s a different story.

Even if I am still tired as if I had walked to Hay, instead of driving, I had enough strength to think about books. Those fascinating collections of 300+ pages that tell you a story somebody else could easily summarise in 2.

But then, how can it take 300+ pages? And how is it that the concise version is lacking so much, even if it’s telling exactly the same story?

The answer is that a novel is not ‘telling’ the story, but ‘showing’ it.

I spent time and writing classes trying to define what is ‘telling’ and what is ‘showing’, but I think an example might make it clearer. What follows is the prompt for today, as well as a little demonstration of what might be the difference between the two.

Take a ‘telling’ phrase and turn it in a ‘showing’ phrase.

Photograph by Toshiyuki IMAI
Photograph by Toshiyuki IMAI

Telling: It’s late.

Showing:

Mary looked at her watch once again. She knew traffic could be crazy at that time of day, yet a thought was tapping at the back of her head, the silly idea that maybe there was something else.

A flapping of wings made her turn hopeful, but the eyes looking back at her were those of a puppy, happy in his afternoon playtime, a temporary freedom from house doors.

A woman’s voice and a sharp order, the puppy went back to his mistress. Mary kept on watching the empty patch of grass where the dog had been.

She wished Luke could have been so prompt. She looked at her watch again, then up at the sun, almost completing its arc in a red and orange bath.

This was the last prompt for the month of May.

Now, I’m putting my feet up and start reading again… stay tuned and in the next few days I’ll let you know all about Hay-on-Wye, the Festival, Caitlin Moran, and the hedgehogs!