The thing about writing is that you never really know what you know, or what you don’t know until you start trying to put it down on paper. I think the funniest thing is finding out what you do know. What bits and pieces of information have settled into the grooves of your brain, collecting dust for years until you suddenly you find yourself recollecting it in the heat of the writing moment. I was having some of those moments last night.
I tore up nearly 20 pages of work to revamp my opening last night, only to realize it isn’t my opening at all. It’s somewhere closer to the middle. I had to rewrite a lot of Telling with some Showing. I can say, “Bobbie’s mother-in-law thought she dressed poorly,” and that tells you something. Or, I can say, “Margaret Clayton eyed Bobbie’s get-up with an expression of fearful disgust that I only ever saw when my mother was cleaning out Rusty’s pockets before doing laundry. And even then, there was some fondness in her eyes. Mrs. Clayton? I had a feeling Bobbie could trade in her Target for Talbot’s and the only softening in her future mother-in-law’s gaze would be for the brand tag sewn into her shirt back.” That shows you a lot of things.
If I just tell you something, you have to trust my word and that’s that. But if I show you the picture of something, you are allowed to infer and draw your own conclusions. If I do it properly, you enjoy it more. If I do it properly, I’ve given you a wider view of the character’s world. If I don’t do it properly, you just get a lot of strawberry scented elegance, and I do try to avoid that.
And that’s why I had to tear up 20 pages. I spent 20 pages telling you things I should have shown you. That’s good, though. I mean, you need to know just why Mushroom and Cockatoo made Bobbie cry, and how that came to be, or else when it comes time to start pointing fingers at murderers, you aren’t going to care.