Writing workshops say, “Show, don’t Tell.”Â But John Grisham “tells” a great deal of The BrokerÂ andÂ the delivery comes across as bright, brisk and punchy.
But in six years there had been too much sleep. Now his body was well rested. His mind was working overtime.
He slowly got up from the bed where heâ€™d been lying for an hour, unable to close his eyes, and walked to the small table where he picked up the cell phone…
– John Grisham, The Broker
“Tell” can be very powerful. But I’m no John Grisham (wish!) and I’m considering whether to change the following version, which isÂ heavy on tell…
The cardinalâ€™s trill outside her window overwhelmed Daytonâ€™s concentration; between that and the sunâ€™s glare on my screen… Rising, she turned. In a few strides she reached the windows and rested her forehead against the glass. Calm. After a short rest, she pushed back from the window and shut the blinds with an abrupt clatter, careful not to catch the silk cuff of her blouse. The noise didnâ€™t travel far; the third floor of the Naval Research Labâ€™s flagship building was as big and open as a high school gymnasium. Sound tangled and died in the warren of haze-gray cubes that defined hundreds of anonymous workspaces. Gliding tall on athletic legs back to hers, Dayton smoothed her skirt in place, lighted on the edge of her seat, and focused again on the screen.
Absorbed in her work, Dayton translated another variable, her fingers snapping again through the codex sheâ€™d pried from Peregrineâ€™s hands (just this morning?). Â Elated, sheÂ plugged the values into variables, closer with each calculation toÂ certifying the Â report and completing the Petrel projectâ€™s three-year odyssey. At least, that was the plan. Whoâ€™d believe the values call our remote-controlled weather glider a data-siphoning bomber â€“ a goofy novelty from a bad Bond flick?
Absently twisting her hair into a knot, Dayton groped for a pen beneath a stack of farewell cards and secured the messy bun. On a dollar-store calculator, she double-checked her teamâ€™s world-renowned engineers.
– Kim Shupenia, Proof of Concept
…to somethingÂ showier.
Dayton didnâ€™t hear the cardinal trill outside her office window. She was losing a game of keep-away that might end her friendsâ€™ fledging careers.
They took it!
Abandoning her calculations, Dayton imagined kicking off her shoes. Grabbing a pen from beneath a stack of farewell cards, she managed not toÂ climb up onto her desk. Instead, sheÂ rolled her hair and stabbed a messy bun, thinking how easy it’d be to take aÂ few quick steps andÂ clear at least two of the fuzzy-walled gray office cubes. Â She’dÂ intercept the manual that arced through the air just shy of the vaulted ceiling. Watching it fly, years of self-discipline warred with her earliest instincts. Grow up.
Nao gleefully leapt and snagged it, landing flat-backed on the photocopier; light as a butterfly, inÂ flagrant violation of the warranty. Dayton cringed; interns, she seethed. She pivoted just as Nao, banding the pages in a tidy scroll,Â winged it back across the vacant room to Shing, the missile almost invisible against Naval standard, haze-gray walls.
Laugh, Dayton counseled herself, they think it’s a game. With a smile, she protested, â€œdid you want a job here at the Naval Research Lab or on a football field?â€ her tone stopped Nao and Shing just shy of pandemonium. Nao shot Shing a look; now she’ll guard it like a hawk! Shing grimaced back, we were supposed to lay eyes on the codex, not steal it.
Gesturing to Shing, Dayton dropped lightly to the floor. Handing her the document, he grinned, â€œIt’s after 5 on Friday, Dayton. Weâ€™re the last ones in the office. Paperwork doesn’t matter – Congress rubber-stamps the Petrel projectÂ first thing Monday.â€ Nao’s voice echoed in the gymnasium-sized office as she approached, her tiny stride eating the distance much more slowly.Â â€œShing’s right; relax. Production will catch any anomalies.â€ Dayton shook her head. â€œA last-minute sanity check shouldn’t turn upÂ weapons-grade heat sinks. AndÂ titanium-reinforced struts? Access panels hinged out like bay doors?â€
Nao laid a hand lightly on her supervisor’s shoulder. â€œWhat are you saying, Dayton? We’ve worked three years to develop a goofy novelty from a bad Bond flick?â€
Â – Kim Shupenia, Proof of Concept