Sometimes THE LOUDEST VOICE In The Room Should Only Be A whisper.

If you’ve ever been in a relationship you have probably at some point been met with the “silent treatment”. It’s THE Worst, right? Right?! 

Then, on the other end of the spectrum are “The Talkers”. What are you thinking? What does that look mean? I want to talk about us. Holy Cow, who doesn’t love THAT question???

There has to be a middle ground. Where the saying, “actions speak louder than words” – In relationships, no words are truer – For writers, it’s a literal necessity.

Show vs. TellShowing vs. Telling. It’s one of the first rules to learn if you want to be a good storyteller. But, it’s a lot easier said than done. I can’t tell you how many books I’ve picked up and gotten a quarter or perhaps halfway into the book, only to put it down never to be finished. All because I couldn’t see the story – instead I was being told the story.

When I read, I want to be in that scene, look around, feel the emotion, visually see the characters:

Melody looked over both shoulders even though she knew she had stepped in alone. Her heavy breathing echoed off the walls in the small box. A minute ago, she was humming along to the tune of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep”, looking upwards as the light shown behind one number then faded away to highlight the next. 12, 11, 10… Now, nothing. Darkness. Silence. Held captive in a metal tomb suspended within an inanimate steel and glass structure. The walls were beginning to close in on her, she felt it, ignoring the voice of logic that it wasn’t possible.

A bead of sweat broke free from the pool forming at the base of her neck and trickled down between her silicone breasts. A few tentative steps forward, her arm outstretched to find the panel on the smooth wall beside the doors. Hoping there would be a phone receiver, instead, all she felt amongst the many buttons was the raised braille.

Of course! The cell phone in her purse. Melody yanked the strap off her shoulder and opened the clasp.

“Dammit. Can’t ever find anything in here when I want to,” she said out loud, as she burrowed to the bottom. Her heart thumped faster within her chest.

In her haste, her fingernail raked against the zippered side pocket and with a jerk reaction, she pulled her hand out to “see” if she’d scratched her nail polish. She gasped. What a dumb move that was, not just because she couldn’t see ANYthing at the moment but, more importantly, she had let go of her purse. Finally a sound, but not one she wanted to hear – the contents of her purse sliding, rolling across the floor.

Bending down on her knees, Melody cringed as she felt the grit embedded within the industrial carpet. “Oh, this is so gross,” she squeaked. Checkbook, wallet, a pen, were within easy reach and stuffed back into her Coach purse. With the cell phone still eluding her, Melody went down on all fours to feel her way across the remaining surface. She had almost worked her way towards one corner when something soft and furry fluttered across her hand.

Screaming, Melody stood, falling back against the doors, her feet shuffling to find traction. A river of tears cascaded, mixing in with the sweat.

“Anybody in there?”  

Melody whirled around. She held her breath, her ear flattened against the cold metal doors, hoping against hope that hadn’t been her mind playing tricks. 

A little clearer it came through, “Hello! Anyone there in the elevator?”

“YES, YES, I’m in here!”

“Fire Department. We’ll get you right out.” 

As light began to pierce the darkness, Melody quickly turned to see what creature she had shared her moment of hell with only to find the just-had-to-have faux fur scarf she had fallen in love with at Nordstroms earlier, while on her lunch hour.  Melody kicked the scarf. “You can just stay in here,” she said, as fear gave way to anger.  

“You alright, ma’am?” the husky middle-aged fireman said.

Melody wiped beneath her eyes to remove any mascara that may have run, then smoothed the wrinkles in her black skirt. Squaring her shoulders, she looked directly in the firefighter’s eyes, and said as she marched past him, “Perfectly. I think I’ll take the stairs from now on, though.”

The firefighter looked at his partner and shrugged, “Not even a thank….” Melody had done a quick u-turn. The corners of his lips started to curl. Perhaps he had spoken too fast.

“Forgot something,” Melody said, returning inside the elevator to retrieve the scarf. Passing the two firefighters, she noticed the slack-jawed stares, “Well, it IS cute, after all.”

OR

On the way home from the office, Melody was riding in the elevator when the power went out. She’d never experienced a darkness like that before and, on top of that, she had always been a little claustrophobic. Being a proud, and somewhat vain, shallow, woman, Melody hated that she looked such a fright when the men from the fire department rescued her. For all those reasons, she vowed never to take the elevator again.

I know the latter rendering of the scene is simplistic, but you get my drift. One puts you IN the scene. One has you being TOLD the scene.

One of my favorite quotes is by Logan Pearsall Smith: “What I like in a good author is not what he says, but what he whispers.” To be able to tell a story in such a way that you can show the reader a world you created, make that reader feel the emotions of your characters, see the beauty and vista of the landscape, is what every writer should aspire to, so much so that when the story ends, the reader feels a little lonely having said goodbye to those characters when the book cover is closed one last time.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this blog and have been able to take something away from it. I haven’t written on the craft of writing in quite some time. And, as you can probably tell from my short scene, I’m new to this. There are some pretty amazing authors out there that could have done a whole heck-of-a-lot better than I just did but, I’m getting there. And, if you’re a beginner like I am, you will, too. It takes practice, it takes reading books about the craft of writing, and reading well-written books – particularly in your genre. It also takes perseverance, creativity and imagination and, most of all, it takes heart and soul and THAT, I’ve got it in spades.

 Heart in spades

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2 Responses to Sometimes THE LOUDEST VOICE In The Room Should Only Be A whisper.

  1. The irony here is that I just finished a chapter in my book on writing and one of the absolute maxims with which I am literally peppering the book is “Show, don’t Tell.” I just finished repeating it, in fact, before checking my email and reading your blog.

    Great advice and an excellent example/comparison for the reader. I’m personally glad you’re back in the saddle (if you’ll forgive the cliché). Oh, and I’m stealing your Chekhov quote. 🙂

    • Gail Gentry says:

      Thank you, Rob. I cannot wait for your book to come out. So excited to get my hands on a copy. As far as the quote – steal away 🙂

      I’m glad I’m back in the saddle again, too. It feels great!

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