Show and Tell

I’ve been on the subject of showing versus telling for the last few weeks. Today, I’ve decided to play show and tell with my novel, The Exception. As I mentioned in a previous post, I struggled a bit with characterization when writing the novel. My main character felt too one-sided, bland, and worse unbelievable at times. She lives with an abusive man who has no apparent endearing qualities, and the reader was left wondering, “Why did she fall for him and why does she stay?” To answer those questions, I devoted a chapter almost entirely to telling. I hope you can see the contrast, and are also able to forgive my little foray into telling. 😉

SHOW

The bedroom door flew open and thudded against the wall.

“What the heck are you doing in here?”

Was it just her imagination or was Oren slowly going through reverse evolution?

“I’m laying down,” she answered. “I don’t feel well.”

“I said no more hiding.” He charged toward her.

It started hailing. Small stones pelted her skin, bounced off, and left hot, stinging welts. When the hailstorm stopped, she opened her eyes and found herself sprinkled with triangular pills.

“Just how stupid do you think I am?” Oren grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her off the couch. “Do you think I don’t know what you’re up to? Do you think I don’t know where you go when I’m gone?” He held a pill between his thumb and forefinger. “Just how stupid do you think I am?”

“Fairly,” Laine said. He was shaking her, trying to get something to tumble out.

“You think you can sneak around behind my back. Well, you— What? What did you say?”

“Fairly.”

“Fairly what?!”

“Fairly stupid.”

The hair on his head seemed to prickle up. All of it. Even his eyebrows.

He threw her against the wall. She felt her head slam into it, felt her body bounce off and hit the floor. When she opened her eyes, her face was level with the carpet. The room was swirling.

She couldn’t see Oren’s face now. Only his legs and feet. He kicked her with his right foot—blow after blow into her stomach. She lost count of how many times. When the pummeling stopped, she struggled for breath, yet none would come.

He stomped out of the room, hunched over like a man twice his age. She waited until she was confident he wouldn’t return, then struggled to sit up.

AND TELL

That’s when he spilled it. Told her it was a lie. There wasn’t any inheritance. Well. Yes, there was. But it was relatively small at first. He had increased it through a string of lucky bets. Then he met Laine, and he convinced himself he was going to quit. She made him want to be an honest man. Get a real job. Live a predictable life. But that was just it. When his life became predictable again—after the courtship, the dinner at the lake, their legal joining—he missed the excitement, the rush he got from laying his money down and picking it back up tenfold.

There was this little problem though. Everything he put down he lost. And when he put more down to make up for it, he lost that too. Now there wasn’t much left. Certainly not enough for the four-bedroom apartment, the car, Hugh’s karate lessons.

They downgraded to a smaller apartment. Three times. Laine applied for employment. So did Oren. But he kept betting, determined to rebuild his fortune. In the meantime, he hacked their artwork, their furniture, her clothes. Her diamond ring. He stopped shaving. Stopped talking. Started gaining weight. After seventy added pounds, the transformation was complete. She no longer recognized him.

Logic told her to leave but now that she was legally bound to him, logic no longer applied. Breaking the partnership would take money, and Oren had a way of squandering every loose dollar. The one time she brought it up, he pushed her against the wall and growled, “You belong to me. That’s how it’s going to stay.”

She contemplated leaving him anyway. Renting a separate apartment for herself and Hugh. But those thoughts were short-lived.  As partners, she and Oren were only eligible for one food Portion. Besides, there was hardly enough money to cover their current apartment, let alone a second. So, she quit thinking about it. She quit thinking altogether, just woke up in the morning, put one foot in front of the other until it was time to sleep again. All the while Oren continued his slow transformation from man to ape.

Still, she recalled it with mild fondness—their dinner by the lake, the moment he slipped the ring on her finger. It flattered her to think, for a short time, her presence enabled him to quiet his demons and imagine a better life. His deception was unintentional. She could accept that. She could also accept her share of the blame—for mistakenly believing she was loved, and for fooling herself into believing she felt the same.

Love.

She wasn’t sure if she’d ever loved any man.