Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The First Kiss

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


Jill said...

Thanks for a clear break-down of the show/tell combination. I am going to print it out and put it where I can see it all the time!

Susan said...

I somehow missed this issue. The story sounds like it was very well written.

Joyce Ackley said...

I loved this story! I am a cat lover, so the cats appealed to me for sure. I did wonder, however, how Min managed to hold on to two cats, both house cats as long as she did while they were outdoors. I couldn't have managed my big boy, Basil, for two minutes. I couldn't have gotten out the door with him! He would have been a squirming, clawing, hissing, growling 15 pounds of flying fur!
I was kind of surprised at the midnight kiss between two people who'd just met in a WW story, but it was an innocent, sweet brush of the lips and seemed appropriate for the moment.
I've never thought much about the showing and telling in WW stories. I think with the limited word count, you are forced to do some telling. Looking back, I think I do.
This was a smooth, fun read.

Sandy Smith said...

Thanks for the breakdown of the story. I am also going to print this out. This story was of interest to me because I wrote a New Year's Eve story a few years back that wasn't accepted. I might have to compare the two stories.

Chris said...

I completely bought into this one, right down to that chaste brush of the lips at midnight that we all know will be just the first of many. It was lovely. And like Joyce, any story with animals in it scores big with me. A real winner.

Chris said...

Forgot to say, I loved Joyce's description of her cat. I've held a few like that in my time too!

Tamara said...

I, too, wondered about holding a cat outdoors; most don't tolerate being removed from their surroundings. Nice story, though. Happy for Karen.

Pat said...

Thanks for that wonderful breakdown. I will keep and study it.

I also loved this story, the cats, the danger, the romance. This story had it all and in only 800 words. Great job, Karen.

Melanie D said...

This is a really insightful breakdown of the transitions in the story, Kate. Love the ending.

I just wished by the time they got to that 3rd cup of coffee, one of them might have suggested breaking out some booze. :)


Anonymous said...

Darn, I must have missed this story! It sounds like it was a good one. I love any stories that include animals. I like that WW is including a little more action in the stories.Keeps the reader pulled into the story.

Kate, I wanted to say congratulations on your last story. Really enjoyed it!


Anonymous said...

P.S. Just realized how many times I said "story" in my comment. Geez, can you tell I'm tired tonight :)

Mary Jo said...

An excellent lesson, Kate. Thank you for publishing it.

The latest story I read in WW seems like a retread of half a dozen others. I realize there is a WW formula, but couldn't they try to be a little more original?

Kate Willoughby said...

Thanks, everyone. Sometimes it's hard to find teaching points.