Telling Tuesday. Reminiscent of the days in school when I used to look forward to seeing what everyone brought for Show and Tell and inspired by an article on WriteToDone.com, called “How to Show (Not Tell): A Writing Lesson from John LeCarre.”
It’s one of the best articles I’ve seen on the rule all writers know–show, don’t tell–because it doesn’t just tell us how not to tell, it shows us some of LeCarre’s very own examples.
” . . . descriptions can set the scene, convey the inexpressible, and turn the reader into a witness, instead of remaining a mere bystander.” — Mary Jaksch, author of the article
Each week, I give a “telling” prompt, then invite you to show us, to make us a witness, not a mere bystander.
12/20/11Last week I drove by my old house in Tulsa. My old home. I lived in that house for 25 years – raised my two children in it. Because it is around the corner from my parents’ house, I see it each week when I go back to Tulsa to visit them. That house became a part of me, and when I left it for the last time . . . well, here’s this week’s telling prompt:
Her mind filled with memories as she shut the door.
Following is an excerpt from Broken Dolls. In this scene, Sachi and her family prepare to leave for the internment camp, taking with them only what they could carry. I began the scene with a haiku I wrote, based on how I felt when I left my house in Tulsa:
My house is empty
But memories will remain
Echoes in my heart.
It was almost time to go. Sachi listened to Mama’s heels tapping on the floor as she rushed around the house for a final check before they’d leave for good.
Tap, tap, tap, tap. Silence.
What did Mama think about as she walked into the kitchen? The living room? The bedrooms?
Tap, tap, tap, tap. Silence.
Sachi did her own wandering, drifting from empty room to empty room, trying to gather memories to hold. Each footstep echoed on the hardwood floor, and she too stopped walking to remember: Getting mad at Taro because he kept winning at jacks. Watching Papa build a fire in the fireplace. Even practicing her dreaded dance lessons in front of the mirror was a good memory now.
The government might be able to limit the number of suitcases they could carry, but they couldn’t make her leave her memories behind.
The hollow echoes swallowed her. She paced around her bedroom, running her hands along the pink walls. Step, step, step, step – like the heartbeat of her home. When they left, the heartbeat would stop.
Mama called from the hallway. “It is time to go.”
Time to go? Time to go? Her heart ached. She didn’t want to leave her room. Her house.
Mama called again. “Did you hear me? It’s time to go.”
Nobu peeked into her bedroom. “Come on, Sach. It’ll be okay,” he said, leading her out.
When Mama closed the door behind them, Sachi squeezed her eyes and thought of all the times she’d heard that door shut before. The fall mornings when she left for school. The evenings when Papa arrived home from work. The afternoons she returned from playing and Mama told her not to slam the door.
Mama wouldn’t have to worry anymore. She’d never slam it again.
Your turn! I can’t wait to experience your character’s memories of a home.