Telling Tuesdays 1/31/12–"She felt sick."

Welcome to Telling Tuesday, a day reminiscent of those in school when I looked forward to seeing what everyone brought for show and tell. This weekly feature was inspired by an article on, called “How to Show (Not Tell): A Writing Lesson from John LeCarre.”

It is 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’ll give a “telling” prompt, and invite you to show us, to make us a witness, not a mere bystander. Feel free to use the prompt, or the photo (if a photo is shown.) Of course, if you have a completely different “telling” prompt, you can “show” us that, too.

As always, I invite you to leave a link to your website or blog with your comments.

The other day, for some unknown reason, I began to feel sick to my stomach shortly after eating lunch. Thus, my prompt for this week. To “show” feeling sick, I’ve used an excerpt from Broken Dolls. At this point, I’m not sure if I’ll use in the final draft of the book or not.

She felt sick.

Sumiko clutched her stomach and knew she must be an awful shade of green. She’d had morning sickness before boarding the ship, but comparing that to the queasiness she’d felt since the Korea-maru left Yokohama was like comparing waves on a shore to a tsunami.  Whether she was standing or sitting, awake or asleep, the room rolled left and right, up and down. There was no way to escape it. And how could she possibly hover at the edge of retching once again? Surely by now, her stomach was completely empty.
Chopsticks trembled in her hand as she forced herself to take another bite of rice. She could not risk losing the child growing inside her, the only part of Taro she would ever have.

This entry was posted in Broken Dolls, John LeCarre, sea sick, show and tell, Telling Tuesday, Write To Done. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Telling Tuesdays 1/31/12–"She felt sick."

  1. Victor says:

    FYI-The last sentence had a typo.


  2. Jan Morrill says:

    Thank you, Victor. Just fixed it. Now you know why I have editing challenges. By the way, did it make you feel sick? 🙂


  3. ed_quixote says:

    There might be scenes best not shown, and nausea could be one. But this particular one keeps me at a sufficient distance from my gag reflex. Boredom is another state which might be told, not shown. I say that only for future reference, as I've never encountered boredom in your work.


  4. Beth says:

    I could feel the rolling up and down and side to side. I've been dizzy for several days so this is a tough prompt to look at! I like where she can't imagine retching again because her stomach must be empty. We can all identify with that.The last paragraph is powerful. Makes me wonder and worry about her unborn child. Very good as always!


  5. She felt sick. This wasn't just nausea, however. This was more.It was more than just an uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach. It was more than just bubbles that gurgled about, looking for a way to escape. It was more than just the sudden shifting of a mass within her bowels. It was more than just the incessant spinning of the room and swaying of the floor. It was more than just an acid forcing its way up her throat. It was more than just the feeling that every meal she had ever eaten was about to spew forth in a single, well-directed, Technicolor yawn. Seasickness, vertigo, indigestion, reflux, and Montezuma's revenge, all combined, could not even begin to approach what she was experiencing.This transcended all physical description, although the physical effects were there, as well. For her, the physical manifestations were the dark bruises, ragged scratches and ill-healed scars that she kept hidden beneath the long-sleeved, high-necked sweaters that people just thought were her "fashion." Many of the bruises had healed to a pale yellow, only to be renewed to purplish patches by more recent blows.There were even scars that couldn't be seen: scars upon her very soul from the yelling, screaming, threatening and belittling she had endured for five eternities that other people would have called years. After five anniversaries, the sickness hadn't gotten any better. In fact, it had become worse. No pills, no liquids, no antacids could give her fast, overnight or long-lasting relief. They were of no use to her, at all.Only one thing had finally, in a fit of giddiness and glee, been the remedy she had sought for so long. That one thing now slipped out of her hand and fell to the floor, splattering scarlet succour and solace onto the kitchen linoleum, meeting with several rivers of red that ran from her husband's now-lifeless, threatless form.No, this was not Montezuma's revenge, this was Melinda's revenge: one stab to the scrotum for every time he had raped her and one knife stroke to his face, chest, stomach, arms and legs for every time he had beaten her.Now, he was dead. There would be no more abuse. Even so, despite the relief, she felt sick.385 Words@LupusAnthropos


  6. Jan Morrill says:

    ed_quixote, you're right that some scenes are best "not shown." This may very well be one of them. But, I thought it was a good challenge. I changed it a bit from the original version, to make it less . . . graphic, shall we say? :)May have to try a boredom prompt sometime!


  7. Jan Morrill says:

    Thanks, Beth. As ed_quixote said, perhaps this is a scene best left to the reader's imagination. Not sure yet. Hope you're feeling better. What's causing your dizziness?


  8. Jan Morrill says:

    Very dark, LupusAnthropos, but excellent! It was not what I was expecting at all — the ending surprised me, and I liked it!


  9. Beth says:

    Sorry this is so long! I need to ADD words to my JANO novel and today is the deadline, so maybe I'll use this! Here goes: Sylvia grabbed the slippery gold railing in an attempt to steady herself. The boat bobbed like a cork in the ocean. She lost her footing on the wet planks and hot coffee sloshed through her white crocheted cover-up and onto her new peach bikini. Damn! That’s hot. She jumped back, steadied her cup and attempted to wipe her cover-up with her hand. The creaking cabinet doors in the galley alerted her that someone was up. The big-bellied captain groused through the cupboard while singing an Irish jig, seemingly unconcerned about the weather. Tina, the toned, tanned, young first mate bent over (yet again) except not in front of Peter’s face for once. Tina grabbed the railing with one hand while the wind caught a basket of croissants. They skittered across the deck and over the side—now fish food.            Seriously? We’re going to eat at a time like this? The salt water stung Sylvia’s eyes and her now-wet bangs stuck to her forehead. Why Peter thought it was a good idea to charter a small boat during hurricane season was beyond her. She had done the prerequisite spray tanning and had gotten a mani and pedi. But his sudden interest in chartering a boat came out of never land.            The restless, dark swells grew taller and angry white caps lapped the boat in every direction. Sylvia’s stomach did back flips.  How could Peter sleep through this roller coaster? She decided to awaken him and took one last sip of the now-cold coffee. She covered her eyes with her hand and looked in every direction. The restless sea was far and wide. She grabbed the railing to steady herself just as strong, cold fingers grabbed her upper arms and shoved her overboard. 


  10. Jan Morrill says:

    Oh, my gosh, Beth! I was really into that scene, then, whoosh! She's overboard. You had some great imagery here, and now, of course, I have to know what happened. Hope you can use this in your JANO novel!


  11. Keli says:

    Delightful (if you can call an image of sickness delightful) and educational! The Kabayashi-maru makes so much more sense now!! I enjoyed your non-graphic description of sickness. It allows me to appreciate and understand the character better, focusing on what has caused this, how it is affecting her, and the future ramifications rather than inducing the gag reflex in myself and causing me to forget about the character entirely.This reminds me of a great article in Poets and Writers ("Spilling Blood," May/June 2011) on "the art of writing violence" which I think is applicable to other areas prone to graphic representation. The essential message is that there are times for graphic depictions and there are times for restraint; the story dictates which we should use and when.


  12. Jan Morrill says:

    Thank you, Keli. Sounds like a good article. I've learned that it's not always good to "show" in such detail, and I wondered if this went over the edge.


  13. Beth says:

    Thanks! I was hoping I'd surprise you. I will use it somewhere for sure. Who knows who pushed her–Peter or the first mate? The captain? Hmmm. Thanks for the great prompt. I've incorporated two or three of your prompts in my newest novel (including last week's fire scene). I'm also steering people from my blog to yours. Check it soon.


  14. Beth says:

    I don't know but I'm definitely not pregnant! The doctor (over the phone) thought maybe inner ear problems. It is better but the room spinned twice as fast as a tilt-a-whirl. Horrible. I think it's either sinus issues (sort of stopped up) or else I'm giving myself reverse vertigo from staring down at my iPad for hours at a time. I'm trying to hold it in the air. What a sight!


  15. Keli says:

    She lay on the bed, repeating the mantra: “I will not be sick. I will not be sick.” From somewhere lower, more visceral, a contrary response growled back. Acid burned her esophagus. Air bubbles wrenched through her intestine. Caught between, her stomach kneaded its contents ferociously. “I will not be sick.” The battle between mind and matter dragged on until the decisive moment when the senses of smell and memory joined matter and made her regret her pizza dinner.


  16. Jan Morrill says:

    "Air bubbles wrenched through her intestine. Caught between, her stomach kneaded its contents ferociously." That's a perfect description – just enough!


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