I know this one. Really, I do.
But when I’m trying to keep my word count down, sometimes it’s more economical to tell. Because showing involves using lots of words, you know. That “thousand words to paint a picture” and all.
Turns out I need to re-write part of a scene in the WIP I’m currently editing. I couldn’t figure out why my airship chase, which ought to be exciting, was actually kinda boring.
This morning, while brushing my teeth, I figured it out. It’s because I’m telling too much and not showing enough.
Here’s what I mean:
My heroes are in an airship, fleeing across eastern Europe. They’ve discovered that they’re low on fuel, so they’ve started to burn parts of the ship, just so they can keep going. They’re also low on water (the craft is steam-powered). But our heroine, Celia, thinks she knows how to deal with this. She’s planning to lower a canvas bucket at the end of a long rope and scoop up some water as they skim just above the Black Sea. She knows this will work, because she did something like it once before. So:
By the time they were over the Black Sea, they’d stacked up enough wood to last a little while, so they all pitched in to help with the water-gathering plan.
Unfortunately, the sea’s surface was far choppier than the alpine lake Celia and her father had used before. Even after Celia reduced their speed to a minimum, the canvas buckets simply bounced across the waves.
Anyone still awake after that? I thought not.
So obviously, what I need to do is to take that last sentence and show our brave crew trying, multiple times, to make this plan work, and failing. Since I’ve edited out about a picture and a half of words (1,500) beyond my 125,000 word goal, I guess I’ve got a little wiggle room.
Time to start painting.
I’ll let you know how it turned out next week.