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Show VS Tell and Other Lessons My Mother Attempted to Teach

My mother taught me lots of lessons–some lessons I learned, others I’m still learning. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my mother it’s that you’ve got what you’ve been given, so you’d better make it work. (Yes, Mother. I know—I hear you loud and clear, “I have never said that!” But, just like my characters, you have shown me this rather than telling me. I’ll get to that in a moment.)


This might sound a little odd to non-writers, but my characters keep reinforcing my mother’s words and lessons. (“If you won’t give me better attributes or circumstances, it’s time to make do!” They raise their haughty fists, stomp their feet a bit and spit at me sometimes, but they always get on with it and find a way to the end of their story.)


Ok, Rach. We see you are enjoying your imaginary world…

but what the heck’s your point?

As usual, I don’t really know what I want to say until it comes out of my mouth or my fingertips. My mother’s lesson of “Think before you speak and/or write” still doesn’t fly all that well with me. I’m not much of a planner. I am a pantser through and through. But let’s start with are five rambling lessons I’ve learned from my mother that have been reinforced in my writing.


  1. Renovating Can Change your World!

It was my mother who taught me to take up hammer and saw and start rearranging walls. She also stood by me every time I’ve tried to do the same with the “walls” of my world. Recycle when you can, but get it new if the old just won’t work. If there’s a will, there’s a way to get the job done—so you darn well better get yourself a will before you think you’re ready to start!


These days, I think my mother would be happy to know I’m acutally using what she taught me in my writing as well. Yeah, you think I’m being witty, but I’m being honest. Often, a story just needs the walls rearranged to bring out the best qualities. Or a coat of paint—the “voice” of a piece is as subtle as painting crimson over something that was sage green (remember that living room, Mom? Hehe). Taking a character who minds her Ps and Qs and make her talk like a sailor. Change a bungalow into an earthship. I think you’re catching my drift.


  1. It’s not what you say, it’s what you do.

I think this goes without too much explanation. Our actions are greater than our words—doing is believe, yadayadayada. My mother taught me this, but it’s taken me a long time to learn.


Showing the truth about a character through his/her actions is much more effective than telling the reader about your character. A lot of my characters are big, fat liars—and I’m starting to see through them though. My characters have managed to teach me to never trust a person’s words unless their actions follow suit. Same goes for characters, but sometimes I use the readers’ trust to pull the word-wool over their eyes. It’s called having an unreliable narrator when we do it in writing.


  1. To survive, you must use the tools you have within reach—or know how to reach out.

Before she sold her house, you should have seen my mom’s garage! That women can take any situation and fix it. I hope I’m more and more like her as I grow up.

I’ve got a pretty impressive garage—and library—and lately I’ve been reaching/branching out. I’ve made new friends, memories, and learned to manipulate Google results to my benefit. (FYI: If you’re needing to change a toilet, YouTube does have some very provocative DIY videos! FaceBook’s animal videos are great for creating imaginary pets with realistic traits, and you can learn a lot about cultural proverbs through Google images!) If I’m looking for the way a specific character talks/moves/sips his coffee, I go on a field trip to where he might work or hang out. Really, if you are willing to open your eyes and get creative, the tools you need are always within reach.


  1. There is good and there is hope in every situation, but sometimes you should still walk away.

Actually, my mom sort of taught me this—but has never been really great at walking away either. So, Mom, if you’re reading this, maybe I can teach you a little something!

My characters have shed some light on this—I make them walk away from situations I’ve sort of had but did not leave quickly enough. It’s a way of getting closure and knowing I’ll be smarter next time. On the other hand, my characters always have a lot of hope—like me—and this works to their benefit a lot of the time—also like me J



  1. Everyone needs therapy. Everyone is complicated.

Some of us are just better at masking it. Haha…okay, my mom didn’t teach me that one either.

I write about mothers a lot—in fact I’m almost done my short story manuscript entitled What Would My Mother Think? So all of those moms live in my head as well. They’ve taught me this. Yesterday, I was editing a story about a woman who watches Shameless to feel better about her mistakes in life. This may or may not be one of my characters revealing the truth about me. Just saying… (But if your life is at a low-point, I…errr….my character thinks you should try out this life hack!)


Okay, I’m going to stop here.

I could keep pantsing this, but my mother also told me to value other’s time. Obviously, there’s a lot of information trying to make its way out of my head—stampede-style! That’s how I wrote 30 stories in 30 days last month.

Now start thinking about what you want to accomplish before the new year begins while I try to finish up this manuscript and figure out what I’ll accomplish in 2018.


TaTa ‘Til Then!

p.s. Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! Annnnnd here are some posts that might come in handy if you’re also planning life-changing goals for next year:

How to Set Goals This is a lovely and thorough set of 5 Golden Rules (Yep, I love numbered steps!)

3 Things You Must Do Before the End of the Year It’s like Nicole Liloia reached into my soul and gave it a hug.  I hope her post does the same for you.

And some of my older blogs you might want to reread:

Experience Life to Fullest

Clarity Through De-Cluttering

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