If anyone's ever taken a writing class before, you've heard "show, don't tell." This is like a famous writing precept. And it means, take us into your world, give us a scene where we can visualize what's going on. And the importance of creating scenes, is scenes are the things that you remember. They're the moments that you feel in a story. I'm gonna play another story now that was written, again, in Writing Class Radio and aired on one of our podcasts. So, very early in the story, so I'm not gonna give anything away, the narrator tells us she sucks at being a girl. And then she takes us into a scene and shows us exactly what she means. So let's hear it. This is an example of creating a scene and using specific details. The next storyteller, her name is Elizabeth Marquardt.
My husband, Bill, walked into our bathroom last Saturday afternoon, and said, "What is wrong with you?" (peaceful piano music) There were six pairs of shoes strewn around the floor, dresses hanging on every hook i...
n the room. I said, "You don't understand, I need to look nice tonight. "You know I suck at being a girl." (peaceful piano music) "But usually, you don't care about that, "so why are you freaking out now?" He said. I stared at him. Six feet tall, perfectly pressed Brooks Brothers button-down shirt, matching shorts, and loafers, his thick, perfectly combed brown hair. I resented the fashion that just comes naturally to him, while I struggle with getting dressed every day. "Bill, the birthday girl is modeling bathing suits "after having two kids. "She was a former Miss Peru. "You have no idea what kind of pressure this puts on me." I googled dresses in various colors to see what shoes would match. I was trying to find a look. Classy and sexy, but not slutty. I'm almost 50 years old, so I don't wanna dress too young. I tried a short black dress on, but it looked a little too short. Then I tried on a less short black dress. That one made my butt look squishy. I put on Spanx, but the bottom of the Spanx stuck out. I tried a third black dress, something I'd wear to work, but it looked too accountant, which I am, and not at all Latin pop concert, where I was going. Next, I pulled out a light purple, one-strap cocktail dress. But the strapless bra was showing, and my 36 double Ds can't go braless. When I managed to tuck the bra in, I realized the dress was too tight. I couldn't exhale like I could seven years ago, when I'd worn it last. I then went to the blue-green dress that I wore to my holiday office party this year. It still looked okay, but my underwear line showed, so I changed to a thong, but the waistband showed through. So went back to the Spanx. I was an hour and a half into this exercise, and I was quickly sweating away the shower I had just taken. I spent the next half hour trying on various shoes that would match the dress, according to my internet research. I settled on mid-size black wedges. With outfit done, I dried my hair and put on makeup and jewelry. Once we got to the restaurant, the hostess took a picture of us. My friends had the perfect outfits, and all looked stunning. I am an average-size woman with an athletic figure. My friends are really tiny. Two of them are size zeros, and the other is a size two and tall. When I saw the picture, I gasped, "Oh my God, I'm Shrek next to these lovelies." Why didn't I ask one of my friends to dress me? Why did I think I could dress myself this time? I know I don't possess the genes for fashion, shopping, or matching my shoes with my purse. Why did God give me the genes to be good in math, and know every player the New York Giants drafted this year, yet forget to give me a fashion gene? Could I learn to be better at it? Would I wanna learn? This is something I really don't understand about myself. (cool pop music)
Okay, so we're taken into Elizabeth's bathroom, which is her dressing room. And we see her dresses, three black dresses, the blue dress. We see her underwear. Spanx, the thong. We learn so much about Elizabeth through the details she gives us. We even learn about her husband, Bill. Because she tells us in that one line, she tells us that he's wearing a perfectly pressed, Brooks Brothers button-down. Even the detail of Brooks Brothers, that detail is so specific, and it gives us such a sense of this man. So that, I just think, do you guys see that? Okay. Use specific details and take us into a scene.
Everyone has a story to tell, and most everyone has a desire to tell it. What stops some is the mistaken belief that they can’t write. But if you can speak you can write. And the most important thing for a writer to do when telling their story is to speak the truth.
Andrea Askowitz is a teacher, writer, performer, and co-host and creator of the podcast Writing Class Radio. In this class, she’ll inspire you to figure out what your story is, help you write a first draft, and learn key techniques to strengthen your writing.
In this class, you’ll learn how to:
- Mine your life for story ideas.
- Start with the who, what, where and when of your story.
- Use specific details.
- Raise the stakes by figuring out why you’re telling this story.
- Create a likable narrator, which means a vulnerable narrator.
- Practice by reading your story out loud and telling your story without reading it.