Wednesday, October 13, 2010

"A Fresh Coat of Paint"

by Karen Nikula from the October 11, 2010 issue

Tagline: The sweet little old lady next door knew that Sara needed more than home improvements to make a fresh start.

In a Nutshell: After just moving into a new house, Sara gets advice from a neighbor about where to find a good painter. She investigates and hits it off with the painter, who, coincidentally enough, is the neighbor's nephew.

Observations: People tell me all the time about how Woman's World stories often tell more than show, which is the opposite of what longer fiction requires, and they worry that they're compromising their literary integrity by doing that. The truth is, a professional writer, a writer who wants to sell, will write what the publisher and that publication demand. It's difficult to provide a reader with a satisfying, positive romantic experience in 800 words, and no matter how much you might want to channel your inner Hemingway or Steinbeck, the brevity of Woman's World stories won't allow you to. As a result, telling, not showing, will be something you have to give yourself permission to do.

Here's a breakdown of showing vs. telling in this week's story.
This story - The first paragraph summarizes Sara's backstory and a description of her current situation.
A novel would probably have shown Sara moving in, or examining the walls of her new house with distaste, making the decision to repaint.

This story - You get a little "flashback" where Sara remembers meeting Ellie and Ellie giving her Barry's name as a painter.
A novel probably would have shown Sara meeting Ellie.

This story - After Barry and Sara have a very brief conversation about what she does for fun, you get a summary of the rest of their encounter.If you're writing a first meet story, a conversation like this one is about all you can do to show the relationship developing.
A novel would have shown you the entire conversation so you could get a better grip on Sara and Barry's personalities and how they connect. 
In summary, in a Woman's World story, be prepared to tell as much as you show.

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