Frank Fiore – Novelist & Screenwriter

February 20, 2010

Hooking the Reader – Show Don’t Tell

Filed under: Jeremy Nash Chronicles,On Writing — Frank Fiore @ 6:37 PM

Make everybody fall out of the plane first, and then explain who they were and why they were in the plane to begin with.

– Nancy Ann Dibble

How true. I never thought of it that way but when I write I try to bring the reader into the scene right away. I also found that good writers save the bio information until later in the  scene and then more details later in the story after you’ve hooked the reader. At that time, you can slow down the pace of the story to get that kind of information out.

Anyone else’s thoughts on this? Do you have examples of how you do this? Here’s one of mine.

The old aeronautical engineer felt the hairs rise on the back of his neck. He wondered if it was a change of airflow in his room – or one of trepidation.

It was both.

He turned away from his moonlit 5th floor hospital room at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center to see a slouched silhouette in his open doorway. A cold shiver coursed down his spine, as if it had been dipped in ice.

Henderson squinted. His eyesight definitely wasn’t what it used to be.  But before recognition dawned on him, he knew something was going to happen.

And it’s not going to be good.

Particularly for him.

The silhouette approached Henderson who backed away with feelings of both fear – and recognition.

“Vajda!” he whispered nervously under his breath.

Now fully immersed in a pool of silver light, the tall man nodded imperceptibly.  He continued toward Henderson in an unusual, stooped manner, like a jungle cat hunting its prey.

And I’m the prey.

Standing near the wide window, the older man was suddenly having difficulty breathing.  He was acutely aware that he was trapped in a small hospital room with nowhere to run.  To make matters worse, Vajda was between him and the nurse call button.

The threatening figure said nothing and moved closer to Henderson. Now fully in the moonlight, Henderson saw a tall muscular man with a patch of white hair growing out of a head of dark brown, dressed in a Romanian style silk brocade that reminded Henderson of a certain vampire count

“What do you want from me?” Henderson said nervously.

He knew he had little hope he would survive the night.  Hell, survive the next five minutes, but he gave it his best shot. “I didn’t tell them anything.”

With stunning speed, Vajda pounced on him, gripping his throat with two strong hands.  Henderson’s air supply was immediately cut-off, and with it, any hope for calling out for help.

Vajda calmly watched Henderson with two different colored eyes -– one an extremely pale blue and the other an almost colorless brown.  A deep, brutal scar ran from under his left ear to his chin.

Henderson thought he was the ugliest son-of-a-bitch he’d ever seen. But then Vajda’s hideous face started to blur before him.  Normally this would have been a good thing, except Henderson was blacking out.  Like an encroaching oil spill, darkness crept along the edges of Henderson’s vision. In an amazing feat of strength, Vajda pulled Henderson straight up off the floor, holding him suspended in the air.

“Where is he?” Vajda demanded with a slight lisp from his cleft lip. “Where is Nash?”

Henderson couldn’t talk; hell, he could barely see.  Vajda held him in the air for a moment longer, and then slowly lowered the old man to the ground.  The Romanian killer grudgingly released his grip.

Gasping, Henderson would have fallen to his knees if the stooped man hadn’t held him up.  Henderson sucked in air through what he believed was a very damaged throat.

“I-I don’t know,” he said, stumbling over the poorly formed words.

“So you do not know where to find Nash?”

“I don’t! I swear!”

“Then you are of no further use to us.”

With that, Vajda grabbed Henderson by the collar, pulling the old man over to the window.  In one fluid motion, the tall man kicked the window open, splintering whatever locking device it had.  Glass and metal rained down to the parking lot below.  Soaring wind rushed up into the room blowing up through Henderson’s robe.

This isn’t happening.

Vajda pulled the old man to the open window.  The wind was stronger here.  Henderson could hear the sound of traffic below, horns honking, cars rushing by.

“I’ll see you in hell,” spurted Henderson.

And with that, Vajda shoved the old man hard through the open window.  Henderson flipped once, hit his head hard on the outside ledge, mercifully blacking out, and dropped five floors to the pavement below.



  1. I have read this before, as an excerpt on my site:

    Frank is truly gifted and quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. I look forward to reading his books.

    I hope to be in the same league (and perhaps even publisher) soon, with my friend, Frank Fiore.

    Blessings and MORE power to you, my friend!

    Lydia Nolan-Ruiz

    Comment by L. Nolan-Ruiz — February 22, 2010 @ 12:44 PM | Reply

  2. Thx Lydia – your an inspiration.

    Comment by Frank Fiore — February 22, 2010 @ 2:04 PM | Reply

  3. I don’t know. Maybe I don’t enjoy change so much?

    This is too active for me. I don’t like to feel stressed while reading–until I get to a stressful part–and during the stressful part, I don’t want memories of one’s life as one is plummeting or whatever.

    I like winding and well-paced writing.

    I think pace is more important than anything. Perhaps this is because I am a poet.

    If you pace correctly–characters will develop at an appropriate time.

    Very nice blog you have here 🙂

    Comment by Carolina Maine — February 22, 2010 @ 4:52 PM | Reply

  4. Love this thread. Great to have a forum to compare and contrast and critique. Here’s my show/don’t tell. It was originally all tell. Comments welcome.

    “The startled boy came halfway out of his ragged shirt as Slavatyzki yanked him from the narrow school-room bench. The cracked slate he wrote his letters on exploded from his hand and shattered on the dirt floor.

    At nine years old, Bumirn was in his second year in school and was just learning to read and do his numbers. “I told you no more school. Your job is the farm. You don’t need no schoolin’ to milk a cow or fix a fence,” he growled as he dragged the wriggling boy to the waiting horse cart. He threw him on to the rotting wooden plank the same way he had tossed in a sack of seeds an hour ago.”

    Comment by thejobcoach — February 23, 2010 @ 12:34 PM | Reply

  5. Sounds a lot like Lost!

    Comment by Rebecca — February 23, 2010 @ 1:06 PM | Reply

  6. thejobcoach

    Not bad. Gets the info across but keeps the action going.

    Comment by Frank Fiore — February 23, 2010 @ 1:56 PM | Reply

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