Showing and Telling

Hi everyone. Instead of focusing specifically on dialogue, I’m trying to focus more on setting a scene and trying to find the right balance between showing and telling. This is by no means a complete story, so forgive the abrupt ending.

Is there a good balance between showing and telling?

If not, what am I doing more: showing or telling?

Do you get a sense of awkwardness between the father and son?

What works and what doesn’t?


A summer breeze blows through the wide-open windows of Kevin’s house, bringing in fresh scents of pollen and fresh lawn clippings from the neighbors across the street. Kevin hears the sounds of small children playing outside with their mothers, and the faint hum of lawn mowers and leaf blowers from down the block. As he goes to get dressed, his father knocks on the door, ready to get his ass out of bed, unaware that his son is already up.

“Out of bed! Now!”

“Dad, I’m already up. Get out; I’m getting dressed.”

“Watch it, son,” says Kevin’s father, as he walks out the door.

Through the closed door, Kevin asks his father if breakfast is ready.

“Dad! Did you hear me!” Kevin yells.

“Kevin! It’s almost one o’clock! You think this is some kind of restaurant or something?”

That’s Kevin’s father’s favorite line. That, and, “Your sister.” If he’s on phone, I ask when he hangs up, “Who’s that?” and almost immediately, “Your sister.” If he’s yelling at you and you aren’t sure he’s yelling at you, so you ask, “Who are you talking about?” “Your sister.” “Take out the garbage,” he’ll say, and when you ask, “Me?” “No, your sister.” You’re confused because you don’t have a sister, and he’s not really yelling at you because he’s walking away from you and yelling from another room, so you don’t do it as quick as he wants. He comes back and sees you just getting your shoes on when it should be done by now, he waves you off, making sure you know you can’t do anything right. It’s at a point where you believe the only reason he yells so much is because he wants to complain.

He likes to keep to himself and it seems like he’s insulted if you try to get too close. If he actually asks for help, and you fuck up, he’s too disappointed in you to even look you in the eye. He makes sure you know you fucked up. It happens so fast too. One minute, you’re actually on his good side; next minute, before you could even blink, he’s waving you off, like a king to his servants.

And the scary thing is that you never know what he’s going to get mad at, considering he can seemingly get upset with anything. It ranges from sports, to the laundry, to school, to politicians, cops, firemen, the rich, himself, and his wife, who’s also the one that has to sit there and listen to him rant, pretending she actually cares. Kevin wonders how she was able to marry a man like him and what life would be like if he had another father.

Kevin goes back downstairs, ready to face the wrath of his father, for once again, waking up late. Kevin knows what’s coming, but his father knows how to yell.

“When are you going to do something with your life?” Kevin’s father asks, surprisingly at a normal tone of voice. “Did you find a job yet?”

“Not yet, dad,” says Kevin, taking the bait.

“Well what are you waiting for? I told you a bunch of places are looking to hire guys like you.”

“I’ll get to it done over the weekend, dad. I have a bunch of stuff I need to do for—.”

“No. You’re going to do it today,” his father says, getting more annoyed. He’s in a zone where he expresses anger, but deep down, makes him happy because he wishes for nothing more than to tell people what to do.

“—Okay, dad, I’ll get it—”

“Don’t tell me okay!” He yells.

“What do you want me to tell you? No?” Kevin yells, angry as well. He doesn’t realize he just gave his father permission to yell twice as loud, justifying his reasoning for yelling in the first place.

“I want you to do what you’re supposed to. What did I spend thirty grand on if you aren’t going to make use of that degree?”

“I’ll get it done—”

“You’ll get it done now.”

Kevin storms off back to his room. He slams the door and his father yells something inaudible from the kitchen. Kevin tries to make sense of what just happened, and why he can’t have a normal conversation with his father, but he gives up—for now.

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