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STOP TELLING us your characters are watching what is happening around them.

Watching is a spectator sport.

Watching, looking, seeing, staring, glaring, in any form, instead of participating in what is happening, is TELLING.


Stop sidelining your characters.

They aren’t in the stands watching what is happening on the field. They are on the field, playing the game, participating in what is happening.  

Don’t TELL us they are watching.
SHOW them participating.  

If they are playing the game, they should keep their eye on the ball.

That doesn’t mean you need to TELL us they are keeping their eye on the ball. It doesn’t mean you need to TELL us they are watching the ball.

Just SHOW what the ball is doing, and what the character does when they see the ball.  

Instead of TELLING:
The batter watched the ball coming straight at his face.

The batter ducked, avoiding the fastball aimed directly at his face.  

SHOW the action.

SHOW the conflict.

SHOW the drama.  

Did the pitcher intend to hit the batter? Why? 

What does the batter do next?

Do they drop the bat, march to the pitcher’s mound, and punch the pitcher in the face?

Do they stand on the plate, shouting obscenities at the pitcher?

Does the coach, and half the team, run onto the field, grab the batter, and prevent them marching to the mound to pummel the pitcher?

Does the entire team rush the pitcher and beat the crap out of them? 

Whatever happens next, your reader, not your character, is watching the action. 

Don’t TELL the reader your characters are on the sidelines watching the action with them.
SHOW the reader what is happening. 
You want to pull your reader into the action, not pull your characters out of it.  

What if your character is a private investigator watching a client’s wife cheating on her husband? 

Instead of TELLING:
The P.I. sat in their car WATCHING the lovers through a hotel window.

Sam Spade followed the dame to the Sea Side Motel. He parked his battered, old Ford across the street. Mrs. Cheater glided into room 103 as innocently as someone meeting their bridge club for tea. Bridge partners didn’t usually greet one another, half naked, in shady motels. Spade adjusted the focus on his telephoto lens, clicking off a roll of film that would confirm his clients worst fears. 

Watching is TELLING.


Don’t BORE your readers.

SHOW the action, the drama, the intrigue, the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beauty.  

Keep wRiting,

(DISCLAIMER: Looking lustfully into someone's eyes is occasionally acceptable, but only if you can't think of anything less cliché to say.)


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You have been spending way too much time with WAS.
You thought he WAS your friend, your mate, your amigo.
You WERE wrong.
He WAS a bad influence.
He WAS TELLING your story.
Was, Were, Is, Are, and To Be express a state of being.
They TELL what something, or someone, IS.
They don’t SHOW what is happening. 

They are dull, boring, overused, lazy, and—from this day forth—dead to you. 

They are like Zombies. They will rise from the dead, infiltrating your document, the moment you relax your guard.

This calls for guerilla warfare. It is time to wage war on WAS, and his buddies WERE, IS, ARE, and TO BE. 
It is time to eradicate them from your vocabulary. Kill them. 
Or, at least lock them up, in a deep dark dungeon, and throw away the key.

Your mission is to search your current WIP (work in progress), find WAS, and eliminate as many as possible. Then do the same with WERE, ARE, IS, and other TO BE verbs.

Instead of TELLING: He WAS tall. 
SHOW: Andre instinctively ducked every time he walked under a…