Writing about fall.
There’s a reason one of the first pieces of advice any professional offers to a new writer forging ahead on the publishing journey is, “Show, don’t tell.” Readers don’t want to be told, they want to be shown. So, how does one show information? If we use seasons or weather as an example, which can be used for metaphorical purposes within the telling of a story, we can begin to crack the code on showing, and not telling, information to the reader.
Since most of The States are experiencing autumn right now, it’s a great example to use. Fall is a time of change; the temperatures fall and leaves turn colors before they drop from their trees. If you have a character in a major state of transition, run their life-change parallel with the change of the season. By doing so, you’ll be showing the reader not only the physical elements of the season, but you’ll also be showing them the emotional or physical transition of the protagonist.
So, how do you show your reader autumn in your book? There are five ways to paint autumn into your writing. You know them as the five senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, and feel (touch). If you can harness the power of the senses, you can show anything you want to your reader. Showing is more about tapping into the reader’s imagination and letting them run with the idea than it is about providing cold hard facts.
What triggers your senses during autumn? Make a list of what comes to mind when you correlate your senses to the season.
Once you’ve noted everything your senses recognize about autumn, you can begin to weave them into your story. I’ve provided an example below of how I used my notes to add texture and description without telling readers anything.
Showing, not telling.
A woman stood next to Erin at a secluded stop on the Blue Ridge Parkway; both looking out over the vast reach of the mountain range. The mixture of apple red, fiery orange, and muted yellow washed over the mountainside closest to them. Though, neither woman saw the same view as the other. Erin, feeling tumultuous as she entered an unexpected season of change, saw past the swaths of color painted across the mountainside. Her mind wandered to the beautiful, vibrant leaves that had already fallen to the ground and then turned brown and brittle.
One footstep would crunch those leaves into a million tiny pieces, which is exactly how Erin felt at that moment. She sipped another spicy, sweet taste of her pumpkin spice latte, hoping for warmth, but still felt bone-chilling cold inside. Erin turned to watch the woman standing next to her. The woman had a large camera, with a long lens, in hand—her face pressed up against the camera body. Erin could hear the click of the shutter every few seconds. She wondered what this stranger, looking out at the exact same view, saw when she looked through her lens.
Dorothy came up to the parkway on her day off to be surrounded by the 360-degree view of mountains. To be swathed in the deep, rich colors of red, orange, and yellow. She didn’t look for the turning colors though. Dorothy trained her eye to find the steadfast evergreen tree—deep blackish green, speckled dots on the mountainside compared to the other trees. Dorothy always strived to be strong like the evergreen tree, standing up to the changing seasons, and withstanding the harshest winters life could throw at her.
Fall wasn’t death to Dorothy, but a second spring. She knew winter would come, and the annuals would die away, but she also knew the trees would come back to life come spring. Yes, autumn held more beauty in it than any other season, and she loved capturing those small moments of beauty as she stood tall on the side of a monstrous mountain range.
Dorothy heard the rustling of dried leaves nearby, turning to see the woman who had been quietly standing next to her, walking in her direction. \”A beautiful day, isn’t it?\” Dorothy asked.
“It sure is,” Erin replied. “Can I ask you something?”
“What did you see when you looked through your camera lens?”
“Well, I saw the beauty of changing seasons, but I also looked for the evergreen trees. They are far and few between the swaths of golden yellow and fire engine red, but they are there nevertheless.”
“Why do you look for the evergreens?”
“They are somewhat of a reminder to be strong in the face of the changing seasons of life. Whenever I need that reminder, I come up here.”