March 22, 2017

Show, Don’t Tell

By Sheree K. Nielsen

Anyone can tell a story, and it might even interest the reader, but wouldn’t it be better if they conjured up visual images in their mind?

Attending Saturday Writer’s group for the first time in 2008, the board members gave a talk with handouts on The First Rule of Writing by Sandy Tritt – Show, Don’t Tell. I still implement this principle of writing today.

Born and bred in The Show Me State, the Show, Don’t Tell rule is easy to remember.

Readers love visual details. With regards to travel writing, I try to place readers in the moment by touching on all the senses. Here are a few examples of painting visual pictures while penning travel articles.

As I stroll through the Middle Caicos’ picturesque Mudjin Harbor, I notice limestone cliffs towering above. Powdery pink sand massages tender toes and heels. Rounding the curve of the island, warm summer trade winds tousle my sun-bleached hair as I reach harbor’s point.

An excerpt from my feature in AAA Midwest Traveler and AAA Southern Traveler“Southern Sophistication”, published in 2016, talks about the interior of award-winning restaurant, Circa 1886, in Charleston, South Carolina. “The romantic restaurant with arched booths and candlelit tables, beckons couples to linger over a fine-dining experience.” Even that one sentence description sets up a visual image for the restaurant ambience.

Don’t those two totally different descriptions place you in the moment?     Anything less than feeling, smelling, tasting, hearing or touching robs the reader from pure imagination in this adventure we call Life.

And finally, here’s an example taken from my ‘healing’ coffee table book of beach photographs and lyrical poetry and prose, Folly Beach Dances – The Infinite Rhythms of a South Carolina SeashoreThe photograph is titled Liquid Dancing. If I’m having a stressful day, I remember these words for writing inspiration.

“The glistening water reflects from the sun hints of golden maize and beige gray in this late morning swelters, with ripples that form parallel to the sand similar to an Escher drawing.”
Often when I’m traveling, I’ll find a seat on a park bench, or along a shoreline, and observe the sights, sounds, and smells around me. When I begin writing, the words seem to flow like musical notes on a song sheet.

Peace, love, and long walks on the beach!
Sheree K. Nielsen is an award-winning freelance writer, poet and photographer.  Her countless credits include Missouri LifeAAA Midwest TravelerAAA Southern Traveler, and others. For two consecutive years, Sheree received First Place for Photography from the Missouri Humanities Council and the Warrior Arts Alliance – Awarded September 2014 for “Jimmie on the Pier”, and in October 2013 – “Dear Kindred Spirit”. The photos were selected for inclusion in Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors Volume 2 and 3. Chosen by her peers, Sheree received the First Place, People’s Choice Award for Nonfiction, Storyteller Magazine, April-June 2010. Sheree’s works are well-represented in numerous anthologies, magazines, websites, and newspapers across the nation and Caribbean. Her essays and poems interweave universal beauty inspired through travel, nature and family.  She enjoys teaching her “Every Picture Tells a Story” workshop to veterans. She credits a deep affinity for the ocean to her parents through regular vacations to the Southeast.  Dad Joe, a World War II veteran, spun tales of exotic ports of call.  Her mom Gladys, a sketch artist and master gardener, taught Sheree about art and nurturing the soil. She blogs at Sheree’s Warm Fuzzies.


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