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Writing Experiment – Show, Don’t Tell

My last post reveals a pleasant childhood memory written in a style that I hope communicates what happened and the humor of the situation.  As I’ve wandered through the blogs, forums, and websites of other writers, however, I’ve come to realize that it tells far more than it shows.

So, as an experiment, I decided to post a revision and see which one the readers prefer, and why.  Feel free to cast your vote in the comments below.

Summer Folly — revisited

I observed before me a thing of beauty—a massive piece of Styrofoam. Its beauty came not from its substance, but its potential. It perched there on the rocky shore of the lake, ready to jump into my arms, begging to be transformed.

“We could build a boat!” my cousin interjected

“That’s what I was gonna say!” I snapped, deflated.

“Well, then, let’s do it!” He pushed a mop of brown hair from his eyes and grinned. “I saw some wood behind the house.  Think you can find a hammer and some nails?”

My mood slowly lightened as various scrounged-up supplies materialized on a nearby dock, but the final pile of wood screamed “not enough!”

“Let’s draw it out first,” I suggested, feeling the tug of potential disappointment, afraid that the dream might slip between the cracks of the weathered dock and float away.

The chicken-scratch blueprint would not have passed code, but who cared?  A few hours, two sore thumbs, and several splinters later, a great feeling of pride and satisfaction swelled up inside.

“It’s ready,” I whispered almost reverently.

My fingers curled around the splinter-filled edge of our boat/raft/thing-that-might-float.  My cousin’s counting pulsed in my ear, and my heart prepared to soar as my muscles prepared to heft.  “One, two, three!”

But my beautiful Styrofoam would not move.

My sinking heart was buoyed only by my absolute incredulity.

“How did it get so heavy?”

It mocked me—the roundish white block that had just so recently flirted with my imagination now tossed those possibilities back in my face like so much rubbish washed up on the shore.

Sweat dripped down my face, and I licked my salty lips. “Let’s try again.”

My muscles screamed in protest and my cousin grunted with effort, and still the petulant raft pouted.  What did I do wrong? All my hopes and dreams for that day lay in that stupid piece of Styrofoam surround by a pile of pieced-together boards, and it wouldn’t work!

I sat and jammed my sweaty chin into my fist, glaring as if I could change it by sheer will-power. A stray nail sneaked its way into my hand, and I twirled it between my fingers until its presence suddenly jumped into my awareness.  My eyes darted between the nail and the wood, and realization washed over me as I fell backwards in uncontrollable laughter.

“Look at the nail!” I gasped, but the nail withheld its insight until I placed it directly beside the wood.  After an initial moment of hesitance, the nail—half an inch longer than the width of the wood—finally shared its secret with him, too.  We had nailed the raft to the dock!

—————–

Do you think that “show, don’t tell” could or should apply to other areas of life? Why or why not?

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2013 in Writing

 

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Summer Folly

When I was younger, my two cousins and I decided to engage in some innocent and innovative youthful folly—we decided to build a boat.

Perhaps “raft” might be a better term to describe it, if even that.  While exploring the rocky beach of a lake, we had made the exciting discovery of a massive piece of Styrofoam washed up on shore and decided to make it “lake-worthy.”

We promptly scrounged up several pieces of wood, nails, and a hammer, and even drew rudimentary blueprints of a frame.  We carried all of our dubious supplies and the Styrofoam onto a dock and got to work.  Many hours of effort later, we finally had a frame that should work relatively well.

The three of us each took hold and got ready to heave it up to our shoulders.  One – two – three – go!  Except, it didn’t go.  Not even an inch did it budge, and the three of us scratched our heads in puzzlement.  We tried again and a third time with different holds, more force, different angles, but nothing could convince it to move.

The sum bulk of the wood could not possibly have been so heavy that it wouldn’t even shift.  And then I had a revelation.  Picking up one of the nails, I examined its length and started laughing so hard that it took a few moments for me to regain my breath and explain.

We had blueprinted and measured so many things, but we had never thought to measure the length of the nails, which were about 1/2in longer than the wood was thick.  We had nailed the raft to the dock!

My cousins groaned and we all had a good laugh.  After freeing what turned out to be a relatively lightweight creation, we finally finagled it onto the Styrofoam and “out to sea.”

Have you ever had a moment in your life when you were so convinced about what a problem was (in our case, the weight of the boat), when it turned out to be something completely different?  How did you feel when you finally realized the truth?  Feel free to share!

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2013 in Writing

 

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