by Karen M. Leet from the January 4, 2015 issue
Min's plans for a quiet New Year's Eve at home went up in smoke when she met her new neighbor, Joe!
In a Nutshell
The fire alarm goes off in Min's apartment. The building evacuates. One of her cats tries to get away and a new (of course!) neighbor captures it. They go out for coffee...until midnight.
This story encompassed a lot in 800 words and it's because of an almost ping-pong game of show and tell. Telling is a great way to fast forward the action so you can show the important parts, real time. Let me break down the story for you.
Tell: We get the backstory on Min. She's worked all day and is looking forward to a quiet NYE at home. She's single.
Show: A brief flashback scene with a co-worker shows she is a little tired of waiting for Mr. Right.
Tell: We transition to after dinner She's watched a movie and...
Show: The fire alarm goes off. This is a long scene that shows the evacuation, the almost disaster of the indoor cat running off, and Joe, the neighbor coming to the rescue. They meet and smile at each other.
Tell: There is a paragraph describing how they talk and laugh as the mystery of the fire is solved.
Show: We see Joe ask her out for coffee.
Tell: Transition paragraph that gets the cats back inside. Another paragraph summarizing two cups off coffee and a lot of conversation.
Show: We jump back into the present very briefly. Joe tells her he feels like he's known her forever and that she's easy to talk to.
Tell: Transition again to cover a third cup of coffee and the close approach of midnight.
Show: Boom, back in the present. Min alerts Joe to the time. They share a moment. Gazes meet. Hands touch. Lips brush against each other! Ta da!
So, we actually "live through" a lot of time passing through the use of those transitions and those little bursts of "telling." Keep this in mind when you write your next story. It's not the only way to pace the story, but it is a good one.
Photo credit: By Nevit Dilmen (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons