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  • Writer's pictureElira Barnes

It's ShowTime, Not TellTime - by Dawn M. Clifton

What I have to share with you is quite unique because it’s a secret I have learned from being a writer, but it’s also something I experience from being a reader.

As an author, I have one purpose when writing a story. You may be surprised to learn that it is not to write a good story. Why? Because anyone with a creative imagination can do this. My objective as a fiction writer is to put words on a page in such a way, that a real scene comes to life in my reader’s mind. Once I accomplish this over and over again, my reader will not only read my story but experience it. I am able to transport them out of their chair, out of their day, out of their situations, problems, or everyday life, and take them into another time and place. How am I able to do this? I’ll tell you, I promise, but let me say this first…

As a reader, I have experienced three categories of books. I usually decide which category a book falls into after the first chapter or so.

Category 1. Not my cup of tea.

This rarely happens. When it does, I don’t feel obligated to finish reading the book. I don’t leave a review because I figure other readers may like it, and I certainly don’t want to discredit an author’s hard work.

Category 2. A good book.

I read this type of book if I have some left-over time. It’s interesting enough to finish, but there is no sense of urgency. After I get all my work out of the way, I’ll read it to clear my head with a small amount of curiosity to know how it ends. I always write a good review.

Category 3. A superb book.

I CANNOT read these books fast enough. I’ll feast my eyes on the pages between daily responsibilities. Heck, I’ll even put off things I should be doing to find out what happens next. These are the books I look forward to sitting down and curling up with on my over-stuffed chair. I always write a superb review.

How do I get my books to fall into the category 3 list?

I can sum it up in three words: Show-don’t tell.

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Remember back in the day when you were in elementary school?

Yeah for me, those days were way, way back. We were all taught about our five senses in science class. Who knew science could help me be a better writer? Well, no joke, it has.

Just to state the obvious, our five senses are: Sight, smell, hear, touch, and taste. I’m not insinuating to use all of them in one paragraph. (Talk about sensory overload!)

But when we pick and choose what senses best fit scenes throughout a story, we are not telling the reader what to see, we are showing them. This technique allows for more descriptive writing, thus igniting their imagination and allowing the story to come to life.

Let me show you an example of the difference…

General/telling the reader: The circus was exciting, especially when a white elephant entered the massive tent. The show was enjoyed by all despite the summer temperature.

Descriptive/showing the reader: The circus became more exiting as intense drum rolls echoed through the massive tent. Everyone clapped and cheered, standing on tip-toe when a white elephant entered with a bow. Despite beads of sweat trickling down everyone’s forehead, joyful smiles filled the musky air.

One way to practice this technique, is to think about sensory details when you go somewhere. It can be anywhere. Focus on your five senses and then write about it later. Soon, using this writing gem will become as natural as breathing.


Dawn M. Clifton

Dawn Marie Clifton grew up in a military home and had the opportunity to live in various places all over the world. A born-gifted writer, Dawn began her writing career in Alaska during middle school. In 1995, at the age of twenty-one, she moved to South Carolina and built a successful career in communications as a trainer and manager.

Still passionate about writing, Dawn set out to fulfill her dream of becoming a published author. After earning a diploma from the Institute of Children’s Literature, Dawn had her debut mystery novel, Secrets of a Ghost’s Diary, published in April 2014. The sequel, Secrets Lost in Time, was released in March 2015 and Secrets behind Violet Eyes released in May of 2016. Dawn enjoys speaking at schools. She is passionate about inspiring children and teens to believe in themselves, reach for their dreams, and never give up. Dawn releases her first adult historical romance this fall! She currently lives in Columbia, South Carolina with her husband and children.

Follow and get in touch with Dawn M. Clifton

Facebook: @booksbydawn

Twitter: @DawnClifton8

Instagram: @dawn_m_clifton


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