Showing The Crush


Continuing yesterday’s theme from Show Me,  I am discussing showing the crush.  In other words, conveying the “falling in love” or crushing stage.

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I’ve read numerous romance novels where the author “Tells”  the audience that the female main character is falling in love with the  leading man. I personally find this disdainful.

Whether it is in a romance, or a romantic interest within another genre, it pays tobe a sensual writer. Sensual as in tapping into the senses. What are they feeling? hearing? seeing? smelling? tasting?

Memories are often correlated to smells.  I can’t smell Aqua Velva without thinking about my father. The smell of fresh-baked oatmeal cookies remind me of my mother’s kitchen.

Songs or sound memories can be even more powerful. How many couples remember “their song”  that was played at their wedding reception or perhaps when they went to prom together?  Any time I hear Sweet Home Alabama,  I have an instant visual of summers spent at the pool,  playing foosball with my friends.

Conveying the senses is an important part of showing in writing. So how do you show the crush?

There are physiological signs that a person exhibits when they are in love, or at least crushing.

The brain – Obsessing over a crush creates anxiety,  which causes the logical thinking part of your brain to temporarily shut down (The part of you that says stop texting him until he at least returns the first of your twenty-seven texts)

The throat –  the larynx constricts, and your voice subtly changes.  This is caused by a sudden increase  in endorphins, blood flow increased to the area, engorging the tissue and lowering the  tension in the vocal cords – much like a  guitar string, the tone drops.  (When he asked you out to a movie, your voice suddenly  grew husky enough to pull a sled.)

Your heart – Getting close to your crush causes a burst of adrenaline, which causes your heart to beat faster, loader, which also makes you blush. That heart pounding out of your chest feeling is for reals.  Typically, the average female who is in “Crush” mode, easily drops a few pounds because your metabolism has increased.  Nice side benefit, eh? (I wish that would work now, beyond the crush stage to the living it out stage.)

Your stomach – Oh hi there little butterflies!  The sudden increase in blood flow causes the blood to flow away from your stomach – which gives you that fluttery feeling.  A nervous jittery sensation that lodges in your gut whenever your crush is near, or in your thoughts. Either that or you skipped breakfast again.

Your hands – With all this increase in blood flow is there any wonder that your palms get sweaty and itchy? Your sweat glands are in overdrive.  You might want to make sure you reapply that underarm deodorant as well.

Your knees  –  Stress hormones. YUP.  Stress hormones put a strain on your muscles, tiring them out quicker than normal.  Feeling like your knees are going to buckle  is a sure sign that you are crushing. OR that you are pregnant,  but lets not get the cart before the horse, shall we?  FYI,  pregnancy hormones have the same effect, also causing increased blood flow  and akin to the blushing is the pregnancy glow. We are talking about knocking knees not knocked up.

Your feet – Increased adrenaline, blood flow leads to  fight or flight response. Running through a field of wildflowers, or twirling in the sunshine, or  dancing – all of which are often accompanied by a ridiculous grin that you can’t seem to  wipe off your face.  You know you can  benefit from this in combining this effect with the natural increase in metabolism by hitting the gym or hitting the pavement to tone that body even more to get your crush to notice but be mindful of the weak knees that strike suddenly.

Keep in mind that the recipient of your crush is most likely experiencing the same effects.

So, with physical signs of falling in love, it should be easy to show this in your writing. Which is more exciting:

a)Dianna was falling hard for Mitch. He occupied her every waking thought and had even appeared in her dreams lately as well.

b) Dianna was flushed. Her palms were sweaty and her hands shook as she picked up her phone, excited that Mitch had texted her.  A smile quickly spread as her pulse raced. Nervously chewing her lip as she swiped open the text remembering how Mitch had starred in her dream last night.

Which would you rather read?

Showing your crush by using these physiological signs would make for a much better story than simply telling.

The same principle can be employed in any scene. One of the first milestones in my mind that I had a knack for writing was when I got back a term paper from a college professor in American History about the Battle of Antietem and he had written that my battle scene description nearly made him puke.

I call that a win.  I know,  I’m weird.  I’m a writer, what did you expect?

Write on my friends, write on!

 

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Show Me


How many times have you heard show don’t tell?

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In theory, it’s a simple matter.  In practice, it’s difficult to execute.

Being from the Show Me state,  I guess this was a natural fit for me. I remember in grade school when I had to give a verbal book report.  We were required to make a paper mache puppet for the main character and then act out a specific part of the story. This was in third grade, so keep that in mind.

My story:  The Three Little Pigs.

Always the overacheiver,  I couldn’t seperate my main characters. I’ve always had a passion for arts and crafts, so I made a cast of characters from  paper mache.  They were pitiful! Three pigs, formed around small balloons, one had spots, one was pink, and one had a bowtie.  I don’t know, I was a kid. Who knows what goes through the mind of a third grader, right?

The beginning steps of a pig.

The beginning steps of a pig.

Then there was the wolf – the antagonist. DUN DUN DUN!  Paper mache was formed around a lightbulb sized balloon. It had a snout, gnarly teeth, and  big ears.  I spent a lot of time getting this right.  All the other kids had one puppet, and I had four – bwahahahaha!  The teacher was not amused.

The next day, we got to paint them.  It was simple to paint the pigs. I’m pretty sure we used tempera paints not  the nice acrylics that are available now. Then I began painting my wolf.  Even as a child I was dramatic  and my wolf was the baddest baddie in the whole land.  His teeth were pearly white, with blood dripping down his jaw.  I stuck a patch of fake fur  from the top of his head down the back which attached to the simple fake fur clothes. (We had to make a draw string dress,  arms if your character required it.)  My pigs were  glued to popsicle sticks.  My wolf was the focus.

I gathered my props for presentation: a bit of straw,  a bit of clay and mud, and small pieces of bricks, then a cardboard setting colored with crayon because – we were third graders and we didn’t have markers. Finally, it was my turn.

My older brothers were into film making at the time,  and had recently filmed a “werewolf film” where I was one of the victims.  Chicken livers are great for special effects as well as homemade fake blood. Be careful what you expose your grade schoolers to, they remember everything. Stuck in the palm of my hand were small packets of karo syrup and food dye aka fake blood. The first little pig put up a little fight,  then suffered a brutal bloody demise. The teacher  gasped. The  student’s eyes were riveted.

The second pig, being a little smarter than the first, argued for a bit then fled to his oldest brothers home, but not without suffering a few nips along the way.

I embellished the story, adding a colorful twist when the hunters came and shot the wolf. It was a horrific bloody death. It was graphic, descriptive, and left my teacher white faced and wide eyed.  I recall some sort of note being pinned to my shirt when I went home.

The art of good storytelling is in the telling, not the story.  It would have been simple to repeat the words in the book.  It would have been easy to say: The big bad wolf blew down the house of straw, the house of mud and clay, but  he couldn’t blow down the third pig’s home.

The point is, showing is much better than telling.  I could have simply told you that as a grade schooler I was required to give a verbal book report for The Three Little Pigs and that I tried my best but the teacher was not amused. However,  I chose to paint you a word picture, describing the key points and the audience reaction.

Tomorrow,  I address showing the crush.  Whaaaaat?

Can you think of a time when you knew you were guilty of “telling” and another instance where you nailed the scene by “Showing”?

Please leave your comments below and write on my friends, write on!