Day 2: Show; Don’t Tell

The exercise I did today was a little more difficult than the one I did yesterday. Yesterday’s was intended as a warm-up exercise and is meant to be used whenever you are experiencing writer’s block. Stream-of-consciousness exercises aren’t uncommon tools for writing, but I thought that since it was on the list, it was as good a way to start as any.

Today’s exercise is about forcing yourself to illustrate what is happening, how people are feeling, and whatever other things you would like to share with your readers without explicitly telling them, “Susie felt mad.”

The Exercise:

Write 100 words (or more if you wish) describing a scene – this can be whatever you want – without using any adverbs and no more than 4 adjectives. You should also avoid describing any character thoughts or feelings.


I found that while I was doing this exercise, it helped if I concentrated on trying to only use nouns and verbs – of course I was really upset when I realized that I couldn’t have my character “walk away” since away is an adverb and I definitely broke that rule a couple of times and I’m not sure it’s actually possible to create a scene without using location adverbs. I also put my adjectives in boldface, so I could more easily keep track of how many I had used.

What I ended up with:

The girl sat at a table near the window in a coffee shop, scrawling on a piece of paper. Her hair was hanging across the back of her chair and her jeans were threadbare. Frost was forming at the bottom of the window. The girl shivered as a man approached her table and tapped her bare shoulder. He handed her an envelope, into which she shoved the now disheveled paper upon which she had been writing. She licked the flap and sealed it before returning the envelope to the man.  He then turned his back to the girl and left.

WORDS: 100




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