Show, don't tell.

It was cold in the car, and icy with hovering hostilities.  The air clouded in front of me from the heat of my breath, and I found myself forcing it harder out of lungs, just to watch it steam in front of me - partly because it was satisfying to physically see just how damn cold it was, and partly because I knew it annoyed him. 

I could feel his fury mounting beside me. Whatever, I couldn’t care less, let his rage match my own. 

I pressed my hands between my thighs for warmth, and they felt like a shaft of ice. Staring at the condensation on the windows I found myself thinking back to the early days of summer, when the windows were rolled down and I would let my fingers trail the waves of warm air rushing past them… back when we would laugh over nothing and grin at each other like idiots. The heat of the memory itself seared something deep in my chest, it burned, and my eyes stung. 

Mick cleared his throat and there was a break in the sound, as if he saw my memory too, and he reached his hand across to meet mine, pressing his own large paw between my skinny and shivering thighs. His hands were always so impossibly warm. I could feel him watching me. I closed my eyes to the rising hurt and swallowed it back down. 

“It’s ok” I whispered, and my voice came out hoarse. 

Suddenly my head was jerked into the headrest and the loudest thunk hit the hood and rippled across the roof of the car. I snapped my eyes open as Mick swerved and slammed on the breaks, the back end of the car swinging out on the road and he grappled at the wheel to rectify it. My hands were pressed into the dashboard and my heart was racing, but there was surprisingly little fear — he always was a good driver, even when damn drunk. 

We had come to a standstill, and I looked at him, he was frozen and wide eyed, staring at his own hands gripping the steering wheel.

“what the fuck was that?” 

“I have no idea but I am not looking forward to going to find out” he answered gravely, turning to look at me

“there is a torch in the trunk, there should be anyways” I said, unbuckling my seatbelt

“stay here, I’ll go” he was firm.

“fat chance” I replied, my old spirited tone returning, and I saw him crack a smile. I wont forget that smile.

Somehow it felt like we were in alliance again. Momentarily.

We got out of the car simultaneously, and peered into the darkness. The road behind glowed red in the cars break lights but beyond our lonely circle it was a dense pitch black, and my skin recoiled at the air that was biting through my denim. 

I squinted as I heard him crunching his way towards the trunk, and I felt my own way along the car, staring at the ground which was surprisingly rocky underfoot, I just couldn’t see shit.

“Lorrie” I heard Mick say with a warning urgency, and every single hair on my body stood on end.

An exercise by Jayne Moore

This is an example of how much more you can give a story by setting the scene and showing with detail, rather than simply “telling” in facts. This was an exercise set by Gotham Writers to get our creative juices flowing. Here is the sentence we were given, to pad out and build a story around…:

Loretta and Mick were driving down a lonely highway one winter night. The car hit something, making a loud noise. Loretta and Mick bickered about whether he was driving drunk or not, then they got out to see what was hit. They peered into the darkness, seeing nothing.

And that was it.

I hope you enjoyed the piece above, and got to see the power of descriptive visuals!

xx JM

show don't tell break lights on road scary story thriller
Jayne Moore