Friday, July 18, 2014

Guest author Cynthia Owens

Show Don’t Tell

Thanks so much for having me here at Heroines With Hearts. I’m thrilled to announce the release of My Dark Rose, Book III of my Wild Geese Series.
Writing is something I’ve done since I was in first grade. I’ve always thought of writing as a sort of magic, putting words down on paper to make words, sentences, paragraphs, and eventually stories. I always thought it was something that came naturally.
Until I started writing not just for pleasure, but with an eye to eventually becoming published. That’s when I learned that the first rule in romance was “Show, don’t tell.”
“Showing” a story was one of the hardest things for me to learn. It took a little while before I fully understood what it meant. “Telling” a story is just that: telling the events that happened. Think of reading a story to a child—you’re telling him or her the story. But when you show a story, you put the reader into the story. Rather than describing the sights, smells, tastes, sounds and sensations, you make you reader experience all these things.
Here are a few examples:
Telling:  Shannon took one look at Grainne Donavan’s face and knew disaster had struck.
Showing: Shannon looked at Grainne Donavan’s face and saw disaster.
Telling: She inhaled deeply and coughed because of the smoke. Laughter came from a corner of the room.
Showing: She drew a deep breath and sucked in a lungful of acrid cigar smoke. A fit of coughing seized her, and her face burned at the sound of a drunken hoot of laughter from a corner of the room.
It takes practice to show your reader what your characters are experiencing. But using active verbs and the five senses will help make your story that much more memorable.

 I believe I was destined to be interested in history. One of my distant ancestors, Thomas Aubert, reportedly sailed up the St. Lawrence River to discover Canada some 26 years before Jacques Cartier’s 1534 voyage. Another relative was a 17thCentury “King’s Girl,” one of a group of young unmarried girls sent to New France (now the province of  Quebec) as brides for the habitants (settlers) there.

My passion for reading made me long to write books like the ones I enjoyed, and I tried penning sequels to my favorite Nancy Drew mysteries. Later, fancying myself a female version of Andrew Lloyd Weber, I drafted a musical set in Paris during WWII.

A former journalist and lifelong Celtophile, I enjoyed a previous career as a reporter/editor for a small chain of community newspapers before returning to my first love, romantic fiction. My stories usually include an Irish setting, hero or heroine, and sometimes all three.

I’m the author of The Claddagh Series, historical romances set in Ireland and beyond, and The Wild Geese Series, in which five Irish heroes return from the American Civil War to find love and adventure. 

I’m a member of the Romance Writers of America, Hearts Through History Romance Writers, and Celtic Hearts Romance Writers. A lifelong resident of Montreal, Canada, I still live there with my own Celtic hero and our two teenaged children.

…Like the Wild Geese of Old Ireland, five boys grew to manhood despite hunger, war, and the mean streets of New York…

He was the lucky one…
Dary Greely is the only one of his brothers and sisters to survive the hunger in Ireland and the coffin ship to America. He was the one whose parents made a bit of money, the one who emerged from the war virtually unscathed. He was the lucky one…but when the war ended, his luck ran out.
She was burdened by too many responsibilities…
Róisín Donavan is an Irish girl who lives in a Five Points tenement room. She dreams of a future as a great diva and sings Irish songs at Paddy Ryan's Pub. But her stubborn Irish pride won't allow her to abandon her family, even if it means sacrificing everything for them.
Can Dary make Róisín see her true worth? Can Róisín heal the festering wounds that tear at Dary’s soul? And can love truly mend their grieving hearts?
The Sally Malone, Black ‘47
On the Atlantic Ocean

They slid into the water with scarcely a sound.

Dary Greely clung to his father’s hand, watching as the bodies, clad in little more than rags, were tossed over the side of the ship. The children first: his little brother and two sisters. Then Mrs. Morrissey, his new friend Declan’s ma. Shane MacDermott’s da, and the twins’ ma and their granny.

His ma’s thin fingers bit into his shoulder. She was sobbing into a threadbare handkerchief, her eyes red and swollen from crying. He looked up at her, then at Da. A shudder ran through him that had nothing to do with the cold wind blowing in from the sea.

Da’s eyes were dead. Their bright green was dimmed with sorrow. His dark-red hair blew across his face, but he made no move to shove it back with his big, callused workman’s hand. He stared out to sea, a muscle in his jaw jerking rhythmically.

Dary swallowed hard, glancing around him. He saw Shane, clutching his wee brother’s hand, one arm about his ma’s shoulders as she tried to soothe the fussy gossoon in her arms. Kieran and Cathal Donnelly stood close together, drawing silent comfort from each other as tears ran down their da’s face. Declan, self-controlled as always, stared into the water, his face full of sorrow, tears in his eyes that he refused to shed.

When the last victim of the ship’s fever sank to the bottom of the sea, the steerage passengers turned away, their muffled sobs and soft keening carried away on the rising wind. They’d left Ireland for a better life in America, but would any of them survive to see that land of promise?

As they turned to go, his father suddenly knelt before him, clutching Dary’s shoulders and staring into his eyes. “Ye are the last one, Dary.” His deep voice shook with the intensity of his grief. “The last o’ the Greelys. ’Tis ye will live on to tell the stories o’ us all. Ye’re the lucky lad, Dary, so ye are. Always remember that.”

The words rang bitter in Dary’s ears. The urge to vomit clutched at his throat with ruthless fingers. But he managed a nod. “Aye, Da. I’ll always remember, I promise. I’m the lucky one.”

At that moment, Dary made a fierce, silent vow to himself. He would survive to see America. He would go to school in America, make something of himself, just as Da had told him he could. He’d learn to read and write and do sums. He’d make his parents proud.

He was the lucky one.


  1. Good morning, Ana, thanks so much for having me as your guest today! I'm so pleased to be here!

  2. I am happy to have you here today, Cynthia! My Dark Rose is my kind of story--history wrapped in romance.

  3. This is definitely in my TBr stack, Cynthia! Great interview, too.

    1. Hi Cathy, glad you enjoyed the post. You can now purchase My Dark Rose (as of yesterday) in e-format at Amazon and B & N. The print version will be out any day now too! :)

  4. Hi Cynthia, welcome to Heroines with Hearts. So glad to have you here. Your blurb gave me chills-can't wait to read it! Was there anything in particular you did to learn about showing vs. telling? Classes, books, critique partners?

  5. Good examples of showing vs. telling, Cynthia. To me, it's the difference between describing something as you might see it in a movie, and letting the reader experience it through the eyes (and other senses) of the character.
    As a lover of Ireland, and all things Irish, I've made a note of your books, and look forward to reading them!

    1. Hi Paula, glad you enjoyed my post. I hope you enjoy my stories! I've been in love with all things Irish for as long as I can remember. Thanks for visiting with me!

  6. Hi Jennifer, and thank you. So glad you enjoyed the post. I hope you enjoy Dary and Roisin's story! Yes, I've taken classes and worked with critique partners, but I've found visualizing a given situation works best for me.

  7. Great post, Cynthia! I really enjoyed the examples you gave us. I'm still coughing on the acrid smoke.

    1. Glad you liked the post, Kate. Thanks for stopping by!

  8. Hi Cynthia,

    Welcome to Heroines with Hearts. Sorry I'm so late to the party.

    Great post on showing v. telling. So many of us get stuck on this. Thanks for including examples!

  9. Glad I joined in the fun! Thank you Cynthia for the post. Showing v. Telling is difficult on a good day:)
    The best,

    1. JC, so pleased you enjoyed the post. It took me a long time to figure out the difference...and I still have trouble with it sometimes! Thanks for visiting me here!