Sometimes you unexpectedly hear something that gives you a new way of looking at a piece of your own. During an open mike event held at my local library, I signed up to read a personal piece that’s very close to me: After writing and rewriting it a number of times, I had reached a point where getting some feedback seemed like a good idea. Standing up and sharing it wasn’t that easy and I felt proud of myself. My friend Eileen, a fellow writer, was kind enough to come along to give me support.
When a final call for presenters went out, someone new to our group named Carla stepped up. Quietly, she said she had something to share. In a soft Southen accent that fell on the audience like a gentle rain, Carla read a beautiful story. Everything about it was lovely: the title, the pacing, the way she told it from a child’s point of view. Soft, airy, lyrical, listening to it felt like a butterfly alighting on your heart. Afterwards, Eileen and I talked about how much we enjoyed Carla’s piece. Just remembering it makes me smile.
“Show don’t tell” – that’s one of the first principles of dramatic writing. Carla had done an artful job of showing what was happening instead of telling it. While my story was very different and written from an adult’s point of view, the way in which Carla’s unfolded started me thinking about whether I could improve my own piece by doing a little more showing and a little less telling. I’m going to give it a bit of time and space and then I’m going to pull the story out and see if using a lighter touch might give the reader more of a chance to discover a deeper meaning.
I’ve been to three open mikes so far. The range of writing voices I’ve heard has been amazing. Not everything entrances me; some topics just aren’t my cup of tea. But getting out there is helpful and if you do, who knows? A butterfly might land on your heart, too. Thanks Carla – I hope you’re reading this!