As writers we often talk about show don’t tell. It’s a concept newbies have trouble with. So, here’s a little piece that I think will help illustrate the point of how and why we should Show Don’t Tell … and in this case Do It With Bugs.
Have you ever eaten a bug?
I’ve never eaten a bug, intentionally that is, but my heroine, in The Nun and the Narc, Sister Margaret Mary has. Sure, the odd gnat has flown in my mouth while gardening, and nearly gagged me to death, but I’m not counting that. Nor am I counting the fair number of insects that crawl in our mouths while we sleep, according to one source I’ve read. That’s why I cover my mouth with the sheet at night, although on the nights I’ve awakened gagging I have wondered what tiny creature I might have swallowed. So, I have to say, “More power to anyone brave enough to chomp down on the insects that other countries consider delicacies.”
So why, you ask, did I make Sister Margaret Mary eat bugs?
Because I wanted to show and not tell. Showing and not telling puts the reader in the action. When they are invested in your story it becomes harder for readers to put your book down.
I could have said, “Sister Margaret Mary had an adventurous spirit. She likes to eat unusual things.” What kind of picture would that have painted? Bland, if you ask me. But a skewer of some exotic, or not so exotic bug, heading for the nun’s mouth seemed a lot more descriptive than “eating unusual things.” So, I decided to show her doing something adventurous and outside the norm.
Upon discovering chapulines (deep fried, chile powder coated grasshoppers) are delicacy of the Oacaxa Mexico area where the story is set, I decided to have her munch down a skewer of the crispy critters.
Chapulines are eaten fried in tacos, or fried and dipped in chile powder and threaded on skewers. Put enough chile powder on anything to disguise the taste and deep fry it, (who doesn’t like greasy, spicy food, I thought) and it might be palatable. Described as crunchy, high in protein and very low in fat, they seemed like the perfect snack for an adventurous heroine who is health conscious and taking care of the Lord’s temple (her body). So, when she’d skipped breakfast and found herself getting hungry at the village marketplace, Sister Margaret chowed down on a skewer of deep fried, chile powder-coated grasshoppers.
Here are a few other delicacies I could have had the sister chow down on.
- Tecole—red segmented maguey worms, the larvae of the Hypopta agavis moth. They made me too squeamish to even consider letting poor Sister Margaret chomp on them, even though they are usually toasted or fried and served in a taco. She wouldn’t be seeing the bugs as she dined, but my stomach rebelled at the mere thought. Adventurous only goes so far, even vicariously for me.
- Escamole—sometimes called “insect caviar”. Escamoles are ant larvae harvested from the roots of the agave tequila or mezcal plant in Mexico. I didn’t think the good sister could keep these down either. I know I couldn’t.
- Huitlacoche, or corn fungus—which was described as having an earthy, mushroomy flavor. Not a bad option, I thought, because I love mushrooms. Then I saw a picture of the corn smut. It was off the table, too.
What about you? Have you ever made your characters do something adventurous to Show, Not Tell? If so what?
Multi-award winning author Catherine Castle loves writing, reading, traveling, singing, theatre, quilting and gardening. She’s a passionate gardener whose garden won a “Best Hillside Garden” award from the local gardening club. She writes sweet and inspirational romances. You can find her award-winning Soul Mate books The Nun and the Narc and A Groom for Mama, on Amazon