Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Telling Tuesdays 1/3/12

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 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

Each week, I'll give a "telling" prompt, and invite you to show us, to make us a witness, not a mere bystander.


The dark road was scary.

This week's prompt was inspired by my drive home from Tulsa last night. There's something about driving along on a dark and windy road. Here's my "showing:"

     How dark the night had become since turning onto County Road 256, as if all color had been sucked from the world. The blackness surrounding her was like a monster, devouring all but the small patch of gray left by her headlights.
     Nothing felt lonelier than being on that road. Seemed like hours since she'd seen another car. Maybe the blackness had swallowed them all.
     Then, headlights in the distance. Thank goodness. She wasn't alone after all. She smiled. Funny how two lights in the distance--stranger's lights--could bring a little comfort.
     But even welcome light can become too bright. She flashed her high beams, but the stranger didn't heed her request.
     Closer. Brighter. Closer.
     She turned away from the blinding beam as the stranger passed.
     Then again, at least for a moment, she'd had a little company. And the return of a void felt even emptier.
     Returning to darkness left spots in front of her eyes. She watched them dance on the center line that zipped past her car as she tried to focus on the road ahead of her. Anything for a little entertainment.
     But one spot quit dancing. It grew larger and larger as she approached.
     She blinked.
     It wasn't a spot. A deer?
     A man!
     His eyes widened.
     She slammed on the brakes.
     Someone screamed.

I know you have some dark road stories to tell. Show me?

As always, feel free to leave a link to your blog with your comments.


  1. Trees crowded the edge of the road and branches spread overhead such that they conferred the impression of descending into a crepuscular tunnel.

  2. Crepuscular! One of my favorite words - now that I know what it means. :) Thanks, ed_quixote!

  3. Stil not sure if I'm not doing more 'telling' than 'showing'. What do you think?

    The car screeched to a stop.

    “That’s it Billy, I’ve had enough. If you think you can do better, you drive!”

    Before Billy could answer Debbie had flung off her seatbelt and was clambering out of the car.

    “Debs, don’t be like that. I’m sorry. I wasn’t having a go at you. It’s just this road is so quiet and this darkness is making me jumpy. Please Debs, get back in the car.”

    There was an ominous silence. Billy knew that there was only one thing worse than his wife being angry and that was her not talking to him. He sighed, realizing that he had a lot of making up to do. Slowly climbing out of the car he said,

    “Come on Debs. Talk to me please. Tell you what, why don’t I drive for a bit and give you a rest. And I promise, no more moaning. What do you say Debs?”

    Billy walked to the back of the car expecting to find his wife standing there, arms folded, with that practiced, ‘I’m not happy with you look’ on her face, but she wasn’t anywhere in sight.

    “Debs, where are you? Come on, don’t be daft, it’s too dark for playing silly games. Debs …….?”

    The hand over her mouth and the knife at her throat stopped Debbie from answering her husband.

  4. @mjshorts - I definitely felt the fear. Great job using dialogue and internalization to "spook" us. Thanks for "showing" us!

  5. Jan, I understood the uncertainty and terror of the lone driver. Ed's was a great description, and mjshors has the beginning of a compelling story.

    Here's mine:

    Before him, night swallowed the road whole, as if the world ended just beyond the last pale sigh of his dying flashlight. Behind him, shadows quickened, creeping nearer.

    Within the smothering darkness, silence lay as a thick blanket. So thick that he heard the blood rush through his body and his lungs expand and empty.

    Could he move forward? Should he go back? What if he remained where he stood, frozen? No matter. The night would do to him what it would.

  6. @K.D. McCrite - Wow. Very haunting. I feel your character's powerlessness, especially in the last line. Thanks, K.D.!

  7. I love these surprise endings. And I've been on one of those roads--during a blizzard in Colorado. Very scary.

    Okay, here goes:

    Mary rubbed her swollen jaw. She glanced in the mirror. It was already turning purple. This is the last time he's going to punch me.

    Quickly putting the car in reverse, tires squealed as she sped out of the driveway. Two long, black skid marks indicated Mary's rush to get away.

    Reaching for the seatbelt, the cold metal bit into her hand. She struggled to fasten it as she drove out of the blink of a town. Soon, Mary was traveling down an unfamiliar country road. Any road would do. As long as he wasn't on it.

    The car rattled as Mary fiddled with the heater. Naturally, he hadn't taken it to the shop as promised. She stuck one hand between her legs to stay warm and cursed herself for not leaving gloves in Old Bess. Soon, the black blanket of darkness enveloped her as she replayed the evening's row.

    As usual, Dirk had complained about dinner. It was always something--the house was messy, the food wasn't to his liking, the job sucked. Any reason for him to take it out on her. As Mary rounded the bend, a semi roared toward her. She grabbed the wheel and swerved right. A hard right. The rusted-out guard rail did little to stop Old Bess from going over the cliff.

    Her heart thrashed in her chest and she stiffened waiting for the impact. Then, a satisfying smile spread aross her bruised face. By now, Dirk was surely lying on the floor. That cyanide must have kicked in. Bastard.

  8. Loved your telling Jan. I liked her ambivalence at feeling alone vs not, and the relative safety of either, LOL.

    Here's mine:

    "Uh-uh." She dug in her heels and nothing no amount of pulling would make her change her mind.

    "It's a short walk, dammit, come on," he told her. "Would you rather wait in the car by yourself?" He stood there holding the gas can and she weighed her options.

    She opened the driver's side door and plunked into the seat, locking the doors as he stomped off into the darkness.

  9. The extra word 'nothing' in there is a type :/

  10. "o" *sigh* I can't seem to type today.

  11. @Beth - ooh! Another surprise ending. I really liked "blink of a town," too. Thanks for showing us another dark road tale!

  12. @madisonwoods - Yay! She did what she wanted. :) Still, it makes me want to know "the rest of the story." And by the way, if you did that on your iPhone, I'm especially impressed. :)

  13. Of course I like this :) Here's a dark road excerpt:

    I was humming Strangers in the Night, not even thinking of the last few days--except for Dwight--staring into the tunnel of my high beams penetrating the darkness, when I saw them in my rearview mirror: blue lights. I didn’t panic, though, at least, not at that moment. I did, however, pull over to let the police cruiser pass. But when he pulled in behind me . . . .

    o god

    Couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t hear over the pounding of my heart. Couldn’t feel my fingers clenched on the steering wheel. So cold.

    o god

    I saw him climb out of his patrol car and start toward me. A big man. My Angel of Death.

    Somehow, I managed to roll down the window and croak, “Officer?”

    He was a handsome man. Maybe forty, with a strong build, strong jaw, and black, black eyes.

    “Did you know you had a tail-light out?” he asked.

    I let out the breath I hadn’t realized I’d been holding. A tail-light! That’s all it was!

    “No, sir,” I replied. “I didn’t. I’m sorry. I . . . oh I did drive down a bad dirt road the other day. I wonder if--”

    “Do you have your driver’s license, proof of insurance and registration?”

    “Yes,” I immediately said, then pulled my driver’s license out of my purse and found the insurance and registration in the glove box. I handed everything to him.

    . . . . then realized what I’d done.

    And as he walked back to his cruiser, my heart started pounding again, my breath left me completely, tears--always more tears--pushed against the brim of my eyelids.

    So cold!

    What did I do? What should I do? Make a run for it? No. He’ll catch me. They always catch you.

    The beams of my headlights piercing that black night, that black stretch of road, transformed into a long concrete and steel corridor. The beating of my heart became the sound of cell doors slamming. For eternity.

    This is it, Caroline.

    It’s over.

  14. Oh, wow, MGMillerbooks! You let us further into "Murderous!" Sure have missed your story over the holidays. Thanks for the fix. :)

  15. Check out my story:


  16. Great stories--every one of them. Trying to "pick and choose blogs" for this month so I can get my JANO quota cone. Sooooo many blogs, so little time. :-)