Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Show, Don't Tell

Saying the actual words ‘I love you’ can be easy. But I’m reminded of Eliza in ‘My Fair Lady’ singing ‘Words! Words! I’m so sick of words’ and then demanding that Freddy should ‘Show Me’
Don't talk of stars burning above;
If you're in love, Show me!
Tell me no dreams filled with desire.
If you're on fire, Show me!
Here we are together in the middle of the night!
Don't talk of spring! Just hold me tight!
Anyone who's ever been in love'll tell you that
This is no time for a chat!
Haven't your lips longed for my touch?
Don't say how much, Show me!

As writers, we’re often told we should ‘show, not tell’. That applies to our characters too. They also have to show each other just how much they love each other.

Small gestures can mean a lot – a bouquet of long-stemmed red roses, a tender glance that’s loaded with sensuality, reaching out to grasp the other’s hand, exchanging smiling glances when they hear again their ‘special’ song, him saying ‘I’ll do the dishes’ when she’s had a hard day at work.

There are also the larger actions. Here’s an excerpt from my recently accepted ‘Fragrance of Violets’ which I hope reveals the characters showing each other how much they love each other as well as saying it. Abbey and Jack meet again in Paris after breaking up because of Abbey’s lack of trust:

She looked round at him. “A lot has happened and I want to tell you about it but – but at the moment there’s just one thing I want to say. I love you, Jack, I love you with all my heart.” Jack’s grip on her hand tightened and she swallowed. “When we were on the cruise on the Seine, you told me you loved me, but I couldn’t say it to you. Something held me back. And now it’s probably too late but I wanted you to know.”
He leant forward to kiss her mouth gently, then gave her a small smile. “Ask me why I’m back here in Paris, Abbey.”
“Okay. Why are you here in Paris?”
“I was about to sign a contract for a year as a staff writer with the Paris city government.”
Abbey didn’t have to think about her response. “Then I’m going to stay here in Paris with you. If you still want me.”
He stared at her. “Here? For a year? But what about your career? What about the Rycroft filming?”
“If it means giving that up, then I’ll do it. You’re more important to me than any acting role. I want to be with you, more than anything else in the world.”
His hold on her hand tightened so much that it hurt, but she didn’t care.
“Think again about what I just said, Abbey. I said I was about to sign a contract. But I was at the airport when Louise called me.”
“What do you mean?”
“I was going home. Back to London, back to Rusthwaite, back to wherever you were. I sat here last night – over there, where we sat together – and knew I’d tried to live without you and maybe I could live without you, but my life wouldn’t be complete, and I didn’t want that. So this morning I refused the contract and I was on my way home. I was going to win your trust, even if it took me the rest of my life.”

If you’re in love, Show me!


  1. Think of the possibilities of a sinister character whose demonstrations of love are perfectly executed but false. Hmmm.

  2. Ah Ana you must have been peeping at the latest book I'm working on - naughty girl!

  3. Great excerpt. Also a fine example of the hero and heroine needing to "give up" equal things to express/show their love for one another. One shouldn't have to give up everything for the other.

    Nicely done, Paula.

  4. Hi,

    Lovely excerpt, Paula, and nice approach to equality of give and take, and all for love and happiness. ;)


  5. Thank you, all. It's the very first time I've posted an excerpt from my new books on any site, so I'm delighted it met with your approval!