Nancy's Books

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Show, Don't Tell interview with Sandi Underwood, Part II

Sandi Underwood, author of the new e-book, THE SECRET OF THE AFRICAN AMULET, (published by Keith Shaw at, is visiting my blog again this week.

NKA: Welcome back, Sandi. In your writing you show rather than tell the action in scenes. What advice do you have for writers in using show, don't tell?

SU: One method that works for me in identifying opportunities to show rather than tell comes during the rewrite. I use a red pen and underline all the verbs, one page at a time. From this, I narrow the search to the most interesting scenes and rewrite using more action.


Rachel looked up toward her bedroom, but was too scared to climb the stairs. Her imagination conjured up all kinds of scary things, but she mustered all her courage and climbed upward.

In this scene, Rachel has come home to an empty house and is worried her wish has come true-that her mom would disappear! The last place Rachel saw the African amulet was in her bedroom. By showing that same information in the paragraph below, we heighten the suspense.

Rachel peered up toward her bedroom. ‘Dust angels’ waltzed in the streaming sunlight. Shadows danced in the corners. The hair on her arms twitched as she placed one shaky hand on the handrail. Mustering all her courage, Rachel raised one timid foot to the first landing and leaned slightly forward to shift her weight. Step-by-step, Rachel climbed the stairs.

Lastly, I’ve been known to utilize a more personal approach. I’ve actually performed a ‘walk-through’ to better visualize a certain scene in order to show rather than tell. Three questions that help pinpoint the action are:
1. What am I doing?
2. How am I doing it?
3. Why am I doing it?

In closing, I once read the description of writing is say what you’re going to say, say it, say what you said. I think a better way would be to do what you’re going to say and be done with it.

NKA: Thanks, Sandi, for your excellent advice and examples. Good luck with your wonderful new book. I look forward to you visiting my blog again.

1 comment:

  1. I like the idea of a "walk-through," particularly in a scene that might not be quite working. The author walking in the character's shoes certainly helps the scene come alive.