Monday, September 24, 2007

Show, Don't Tell - This is the Real Deal

Posted by Lisa

It’s likely the number one rule. Show, Don’t Tell. Why? Because it makes the difference between poor writing and great writing. Surely, an example is better than me talking about this. I’ve been reading A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith. How’s this for a Show, Don’t Tell start your writing week?

There were times though, especially towards the end of a long cold dark winter, when, no matter how hungry Francie was, nothing tasted good. That was pickle time. She’d take a penny and go down to a store on Moore Street that had nothing in it but fat Jew pickles floating around in a heavy spiced brine. A patriarch with a long white beard, black skull cap and toothless gums presided over the vats with a big forked wooden stick…

The pickle lasted all day. Francie sucked and nibbled on it. She didn’t exactly eat it. She just had it. When they had just bread and potatoes too many times at home, Francie’s thoughts went to dripping sour pickles. She didn’t know why, but after a day of the pickle, the bread and potatoes tasted good again. Yes, pickle day was something to look forward to.

This passage speaks to the plain, repetitive, uninspired life young Francie lived. And oh, how well this author shows the reader.

4 comments:

Sustenance Scout said...

Lisa, I love this book and look forward to giving each of my girls a copy some day. It's a gem. I still remember the description of the father's beautiful singing voice, not because he was described as an Irish tenor but because of the bittersweet reactions of those who heard him sing and nearly wept with appreciation and despair. Thanks for the timely reminder.

John Elder Robison said...

I like those fat pickles, too

Larramie said...

Just the book's title is a wonderful "show."

Ello said...

You know, growing up in Brooklyn, I can assure you, that there really was only that one tree that grows there! ;o)

Let me tell you about those pickles! That and a potato knish with mustard was one of my favorite things growing up. Ah, this passage is nostalgic...