"She pulled the hood of her raincoat forward to keep the rain off her glasses..."
It's good writing for empathy and atmosphere, but the real reason I wanted to share this masterful (part) sentence was to showcase the skills Kingsolver has for 'show, don't tell'. The idea of this tool for writing is to create texts which enable the reader to tune into the story through action, words, thoughts, senses, and feelings of the characters involved, rather than through description.
Why is 'show, don't tell' so important? It's essential to good writing, and something I try to achieve on every page I write. The writer is hinting at a subtext, in this case, the personal description and character of the protagonist. She is clearly someone who needs to wear glasses (or perhaps chooses to - but in this case, most people would leave their specs at home if it was raining, should they not require them for more than a fashion statement!), who owns a decent outdoor weather-ready coat, and the character needs to be able to see clearly for the task she's about to undertake. The creative writing leaves it unsaid, unshown, yet obvious about what the character looks like in a basic form. You can get all of that from one little sentence about a waterproof hood.
The old adage 'show, don't tell' is so important to writing it's now included in Key Stage 2 English classes in English schools. Bravo!
Anton Chekov put it brilliantly:
Over half way through the (thick) book, I'm not enamored with 'Flight Behaviour'. Yet, page by page, I notice examples of fantastic writing I hope to emulate one day. And that's reading, not critiquing. I'm reading as a reader, not as a writer (for fun!), but hopefully some of the better examples of writing are drip feeding into my consciousness, day by day making me an improved writer.
Check out these quick and dirty tips on showing, not telling from Grammar Girl, Mignon Fogarty - well worth the read.
I'd love to hear if you've been struck by a specific sentence or two while reading. What has the text spoken to you?
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