Sunday, June 15, 2014

Show, Don't Tell

As writers, we hear these words all the time.

Show, don't tell.

I heard the best example of it ever today in an ad on the radio. You've probably heard it, too. It's the Jimmy John's commercial, where the Jimmy John's delivery guys put out the fire.

For those of you who aren't familiar with it, I'll recap very quickly.

The Jimmy John's delivery guy pulls up at the house to deliver a sandwich. When the homeowner answers the door, he tells him, "Hey, did you know your house is on fire?"

The homeowner responds,"Quick! Grab a bucket."

After this, the Jimmy John's guy keeps calling the store telling his boss to send another sandwich.

As each of the delivery guys show up, they say the same thing, "Hey, did you know your house is on fire?"

"Quick! Grab a bucket," is the reply.

Finally, when the last guy knocks on the door, it's a fireman, and the homeowner tells him to sit down and have a sandwich. The fireman says, "I've got just one question for you. Why didn't you call the fire department first?"

And, the homeowner replies, "I did."


They end the commercial with "Jimmy John's - Freaky Fast Delivery."

It's low key. It paints a perfect picture in your mind, and the best thing is - they don't beat a dead horse at the end by telling you how fast they are compared to the fire department. You're left to figure that out for yourself.

Next time you're trying to decide whether your writing shows, or tells, think of that Jimmy John's commercial. If you show the story unfolding, and, don't restate the obvious afterwords, you've probably got a keeper.

Hope that helps.

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