Vote for Contest Winner!

Thanks to all of you who entered the Show vs. Tell contest! I was impressed with the entries and can see everyone really working on “showing” in their writing.

If you want to tell us about your experience with this exercise, leave a comment here. Was it harder than you thought it would be? Did you learn anything as you focused on “showing”?

As usual, it was difficult choosing possible winners! I’ve chosen my favorites from the bunch and I’m going to let you vote. Also tomorrow I’m going to post a few more “honorable mentions” and give you my thoughts about them. (If for some reason you DON’T want me to post and/or critique yours, be sure to let me know today.)

So here they are, my TOP SIX.

Randy Mortenson:

Our physics teacher’s voice became background noise. I was sneaking glimpses of Haylee and drawing her profile in my notebook. On my next peek–there she was, looking right at me. Time froze, while the temperature in the room climbed ten degrees. Celsius.


Little had changed in twenty years. There. Just there in the delicate, rolling meadow leading to the manor, amongst the tangle of oak roots, he had played pirate. A five-year-old hellion, terrorizing the sheep he pressed into service. And over there, he had dug furiously for the buried treasure sure to be discovered under the cherry tree his mother loved to paint.

He frowned. He had forgotten his mother painted.


“OK, can I get everybody’s phone numbers? I’ll call you with your exact time.” Sarah circled up with the others and Ted’s pen, posed above his clipboard, kept tempo with the rhythmic numbers. Then it was her turn. Breaking the syncopation, Ted looked up at her with a grin. She relished the pause, then fought back a wide smile as she noticed that his pen wasn’t moving as she spoke.


The doorbell rang. I threw one last glance at the TV screen – the Broncos were down by three.

I reluctantly opened the door, stoic smile firmly set. Her sweats and baggy t-shirt belied the plans we had made.

“Aren’t we going to the theater?” I asked, confused.

“What, and miss the Superbowl?”

“But you don’t even like -”

“Relax,” she said, pushing past me into the room. “We can do the theater some other time. What’s the score?”

Kay Day:

As we rushed out the door I nearly flattened my youngest as he stood rooted to the sidewalk.
“Jeremy? Move.”
Still he stood, mouth agape.
“Let’s go. What are you doing? We’re late for dinner.”
I followed his gaze to the west and my mouth fell open. I was accosted by color. I didn’t even realize I was holding my breath until I heard my husband behind me. “Julie? What are you doing? Let’s go.”


Adams stepped out of the darkness and into a world lit by a dying sun. Instinctively he reached for his camera but then froze. Something was different. This spectacle was for feeling, not framing. This was nature’s coming attraction, her apology for hurricanes and tornadoes, her foray deep into the soul with sensations more commutative than words. Adams felt a kinship with the poet who once said “a poem should not mean, but be.”

Go to the sidebar and VOTE.
Only one vote per person!

Voting will close TUESDAY NIGHT, 11:59 PM ET

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


  1. Anonymous on October 28, 2008 at 1:11 AM

    >I’m new to this site. What a treasure I’ve found in all of you, especially you, Rachelle. Thanks for giving to us when your life is crazy busy already! I entered this contest with a euphoric plunge, and lol, wanted to be picked so badly. I learned sooo much from not being picked–Mainly, to truly appreciate the kind of writing it takes to draw in a reader. One day, maybe I’ll actually have enough courage to sign a comment with my name instead of anonymous. Thanks to all of you for your love of writing…your talent is truly helping me.

  2. Avily Jerome on October 27, 2008 at 5:27 PM

    >I was upset that I could only vote once! I ended up voting for Randy, but it was a toss up for me between his and Kay Day’s.

    Awesome work, everyone! Showing is something I never get right in my first draft. I always end up rewriting almost everything on my second draft, because all I do is tell.

    Great contest, Rachelle!

  3. Anonymous on October 27, 2008 at 4:19 PM

    >Great exercise, thanks. I voted for Vince’s — good writing, showing us an appealing picture without resorting to the use of ever-tempting cliches.

    Carol Garvin

  4. cosimod on October 27, 2008 at 3:00 PM

    >Thanks for the contest!

    My vote went to Vince. 🙂

  5. Davey on October 27, 2008 at 11:05 AM

    >Kim, thanks for your vote! Not being a football fan, you probably can relate to that kind of enormous sacrificial love (-:

  6. Randy Mortenson on October 27, 2008 at 10:18 AM

    >”Casually, he opened the CBA Ramblings blog. Two words jumped at him. His own name! Without daring to draw another breath, he skimmed blindly through the rest of the blog’s post. He would have to return later to actually read the blog. Outside his window, the sky appeared a brighter shade of blue.”

    It is hard work. I think it gets easier, but it’s never easy. It’s always “exercise” strengthening our writing muscles.

    Thanks, Rachelle! As I tried to show above, your blog made my day. 🙂

  7. JC Lamont on October 27, 2008 at 9:59 AM

    >I forgot to vote — I’m for Kay Day.

    Her passage draws out the suspsence. 75 words later and the reader still doesn’t know what the characters are staring at. Very well done.

  8. JC Lamont on October 27, 2008 at 9:55 AM

    >I’m with you, Timothy!

    When one is trying to cut massive amounts of words, changing a pretty passage describing the devastaion of the MC to:

    Devastated, the MC drew his sword. “To the death, you dastardly villian!”

    definately seems to be the way to go.

    (PS – have no fear, my dialogue is NOT that corny! It was merely an example.)

  9. Camille Cannon (Eide) on October 27, 2008 at 9:55 AM

    >Yes, it was a bit difficult. I thought I’d save on brain power and just pull something from my current novel. Guess what I discovered? Skimming through my story, I had a hard time finding the kind of examples I would want to post here. That was an eye opener.

  10. Cheryl Barker on October 27, 2008 at 9:37 AM

    >I voted on the sidebar but just wanted to compliment Vince on his poetic style and great rhythm. Beautifully written, Vince.

  11. Kim Kasch on October 27, 2008 at 9:09 AM

    >I had to vote for Davey. I mean football is sooo not my thing, I just thought it was cute.

  12. Robbie Iobst on October 27, 2008 at 8:18 AM


    Thank you for this contest. It was fun and it made me think very specifically about word choice. Something I should do more often.
    :0) I voted on the sidebar, but I just want to say I think Kay Day’s is the best. She not only showed exactly what was happening, but she did it in a clever, interesting way.

  13. Kay Day on October 27, 2008 at 8:18 AM

    >I was so surprised to be one of the chosen! I am so new at writing that every little boost feels like a big one. Maybe I CAN do this! It makes my little heart happy.
    So thank you for the opportunity to “show” my stuff. LOL

    I actually found the exercise easier than I expected. My rough draft is pretty much all “telling” and I plan to go back and “show” it all in the rewrite. “Telling” comes so easily and I have developed a bit of apprehension and even rebellion toward “showing”. So this exercise was good because it let me see that it isn’t the big scary difficult thing that I had made it out to be. It just takes a little more thinking *gasp*.

  14. Yvonne on October 27, 2008 at 7:32 AM

    >This is a good exercise! I find it interesting that sometimes a writer will be attempting one emotion with actions, but you can also see other things in there. It also shows the character’s personality or the setting or even a little of the plot.

    My vote is Randy also. I think he captured a feeling we all have had sometime in our life.

  15. Timothy Fish on October 27, 2008 at 7:27 AM

    >This exercise is by far the hardest exercise I have ever done. Can you imagine how difficult it would be if writers were expected to do this on a regular basis? I mean, what writer in his right mind would attempt to show anything when it is obvious that telling gets the point across so much easier and with far fewer words? I would hate to think that there are authors out there using more words than are necessary. It would be a tragedy if someday we ran out of words because authors wasted so many on showing. We must band together to put an end to this problem. Who’s with me?

  16. Marion Ueckermann on October 27, 2008 at 7:15 AM

    >My vote … Randy Mortenson

  17. Africakid on October 27, 2008 at 4:09 AM

    Thanks for the contest opportunity–you dream up some good ones! I like seeing how everyone else reacts to the same prompt.