“Show, don’t tell.” Every writing student has probably heard the adage a thousand times. But Les Sillars wanted to chisel down our understanding of this concept.
When he asked us what color was, the image of a rainbow shot through my head. No, color isn’t the brilliance of light reflecting off particles. In journalism, color is all about the use of specific detail that people can sense.
I am a huge fan of color. I love to show how the lady with crimson hair perched herself on the dusty park bench, feeding the cooing pigeons with seeds that sparkled like fairy dust. Of course, this sort of description works fine, but if it doesn’t add meaning to my story, it’s pointless. This stuck with me. Les told us there’s such a thing as too much color. Specific detail should always have a point.
If I’m interviewing the park bench pigeon feeder about her new furniture business, it might not be important to add all these details. However, if it’s about her care for small children in an orphanage, I might use them to allude to an important theme—such as her care for the smallest of God’s creatures.
When it was time to practice, Les told us to go out into the city and find some color. Entering a public library, I felt surprised by how much more I noticed. In less than a week, I felt confident about going anywhere to get a story. And yet, this week has shown me that I still lack…a lot. On the same evening, we drove to Sioux City to cover a political story. I felt excited. I’d never been to an event like this. But when I came back, I hardly knew how to begin my news piece. With steady work, I finally came up with a story. It wasn’t the best, but it was a story. As I grow as a writer, I am beginning to realize just how hard it is to be a journalist. But I also see how powerful it is to tell the world’s stories. It’s worth sweating over.