Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Telling Tuesdays 11/29/11

Tuesday was show-and-tell-day at school, and though I remember the excitement of trying to decide what to bring, what I liked best was seeing what everyone else brought to show.

Yesterday, I found a great article on a website called WriteToDone.com, 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

This inspired me to start a new feature on my blog, Telling Tuesdays. Each week, I'll give a "telling" prompt, and invite you to show us, to make us a witness, not a mere bystander.

This week's prompt:

The coffee was good.

I'll show you mine, if you'll show me yours:

     The scent grew stronger, richer, with every step she took down the stairway. Rubbing her eyes, she shuffled into the kitchen and heard the rhythmic gurgle of percolating coffee.
     She flipped on the light, then stifled a yawn as she stared at the mugs hanging over the counter. Picking one at random, she smiled at her choice. "Happy Boss's Day," it said.
     As she poured, steam rose from the dark brew and she took a deep breath. To her mouth she drew it, closer, closer, blowing to cool it, anticipating.
     Then, a sip.
     Ah. A morning to relax and enjoy a cup of coffee. The first time in years. For now, she didn't care that she'd been fired the day before.

Okay. I'm sitting at my desk now, hands folded in front of me, and I'm almost as excited to see what you'll "show" as I was back in elementary school. Only difference is, Johnny Winklebuns is not sitting behind me, pulling my hair.

Addendum: 11/30/11

I had to add this picture of coffee in my grandmother's rosebud cup, after reading Keli's comment. Thanks for the memories, Keli!


  1. Here's an example of showing that might look like telling. Charles Dickens has a character in _Bleak House_ called Smallweed. What kind of person do you suppose Mr. Smallweed to be?

  2. @ed_quixote - Good point. A name can be showing in itself. Still, I'd like to see what YOU have to show, rather than Charles Dickens. :) WRITE!

  3. At 5 am the scent wafted through just as slumber reached it's deepest moment. My dream incorporated the earthy aroma and by the time unconsciousness roused to wakefulness my mouth already watered for the taste of a morning ritual.

  4. The first cold-front football game sent shivers from the top of my covered head to the ends of my double-socked toes. An afghan wrapped around my double coated body, but I still felt the chill all through me.

    The concession stand ran out of hot cocoa, but they had coffee. The aroma drifted on the stiff breeze and tickled my nose. Ahhh, it smelled warm.

  5. Ugh. I hear it. Coffee peeing into the coffee pot. I refuse. I refuse to open my eyes. But dawn shimmers through my eyelids. Dang. I do not want to get up. The pillows are perfectly cradling my head. The blankest have swaddle my body like a babe. And my nose tells me it's cold beyond my bed. But the trickling sounds of the brewing coffee does more than fill the pot. I too need to pee. Andthat means...yeah.
    I forge forward into my day with the reward of a warm cup of coffee in nestled in my palms. The warm scent of Columbian bean coffee freshly ground and hinted with cinnamon rewards me for my effort to start my day, for my denial of lingering between warm sheets.
    Brewing coffee is worse than a darn rooster.

  6. The neighbor’s maple stretches bare hope to the pre-dawn sky. Pressed tight for warmth, the raised “M” a welt under my right palm, I sip coffee, breathe deeply of the caffeine promise and try not to think of the child who gave me the mug now branding my lifeline. Later, I will carefully wash the cup, return it to its place beside the coffee maker. By then, a thin hint of dawn’s red will trace the dark shape of the mountain behind me.

  7. Just like the day before and every day for that matter, I padded down our cold, ivory tiled hallway in anticipation of that first hot cup of java. As I entered the kitchen, something seemed amiss. The familiar blue lights are not on the coffee pot. There is no comforting smell of coffee beans. Worse yet, the coffee pot is empty.

    I rubbed my eyes, bent forward and peered at the blinking clock on the stove. Power outage in the middle of the night. Now I have to wait for that warm, satisfying, brown liquid to touch my tongue. Spoiled by automatic brewers,
    that's me.

    P.S. Loved your entry, Jan, and way to spoil my coffee by describing it as peeing, Judy. LOL and Ugh.

  8. @Madison Woods - exactly what I experience each morning!

    @4RV Publishing - I like that you set the scene in a place different from the kitchen. Nice and warm!

    @Judy - What a unique way to describe coffee brewing - but accurate! We have a rooster, so I know what you mean.

    @Pamela Foster - What beautiful and powerful imagery, as always.

  9. @Beth - That's happened to me and I hate it! When I program my coffee maker, I expect to wake to that wonderful smell, and when I don't, grrr . . . not a good start to my day. :)

  10. Jan, I loved yours too. I could relate to that, I think, if it happened... but if it would wait until after all the debts are paid, I'd really relate better!

    @Beth, I hate it when mine doesn't have the coffee made already when I get up, lol.

  11. The light died early this time of year. Melanie stood at the kitchen window as the orange sun blinked from between bare branches before setting. It happened fast. Might as well get ready for tomorrow since night had already fallen. She reached into the cabinet over the coffee pot, circled her hand around the familiar glass jar and set it on the counter. She flipped open the sealed lid, inhaling the gentle smell of roasted beans. Pouring them into the grinder, she pressed down with her palm and endured the grrrrr she couldn't take at 5:30 am. Lifting the lid, the full round smell of the coffee opened her nose, her eyes; even her mouth watered. Oh, yeah. Time to hurry up and go to bed so she could get up and drink coffee.

  12. @Mendy (Hillpoet) - Such beautiful touches, like "as the orange sun blinked from between bare branches." Also, the glass jar, not being able to bear the grrr at 5:30 - that sounds just like me, and is exactly why I set up coffee the night before. :)

  13. I reached the stained mug down from her cupboard. It was her favorite, the one with little rosebuds. I couldn’t focus on them. The old coffe pot percolated dark bubbles into the clear knob in the lid. She’d always loved her coffee. The black plastic handle was something I could grasp, and I poured myself a cup. The steam carried in it the smell of Christmas mornings and autumn afternoons and evenings after the big family dinners. Always there had been the warm scent of grandma’s coffee, earthy and strong. I raised the mug and took a long, slow sip. The watery bitterness drained down my throat, and my stomach clenched as the fluid hit it. I heard my grandpa weeping in his bedroom.

  14. I was going to write one, but these are all soooo good, I HAVE to go get a cup of coffee. Maybe I can show next week! :-)

  15. @Keli - oh, my goodness. This was beautiful, and brought back so many memories of my own grandmother. In fact, Grandma had coffee cups with rosebuds. After reading this, I had to take one of the cups out to have myself a cup of coffee in memory of Grandma. )I've added a picture to this blog.) Waking to the scent of coffee at Grandma's house, listening to her hum as she cooked breakfast in the morning--these are some of my fondest memories. Thank you for your poignant post.

  16. The usual suspects circled the break room coffee pot like a tribe of nomadic Neanderthals. Communication consisted of deep grunts, nasal snorts, and hand signals. Perky Susan, from accounting, burst into the room and yanked the pot from under the strainer before the last drip had a chance to fall.
    “Arg,” snarled Sam, yellow teeth flashed beneath an upturned lip.
    “Rrou,” growled Bob, eyebrows folded in disdain.
    Susan poured them each a cup without saying a word, then spun on her four-inch heels and bounced from the room, her slender hips swaying like a pendulum in the breeze.
    “Ummm,” Bob sighed. “Susan sure pours a great cup of coffee.”
    “You got that right,” agreed Bob, “mighty fine indeed.”

  17. @Russell - you've got coffee's effects down perfectly! I especially love "Perky Susan." :)