Thursday, 11 November 2010

PLAYING WITH BEHAVIOURAL QUEUES - The problem with show don't tell.

Joe pushed his hands to the bottom of his pockets. He knew where to look, more importantly he knew where not to. The other boys were direct, not fast, but they closed the distance between them. Chins lowered, they whispered. Joe’s leather jacket protested when he raised his shoulders and dropped them again. So? What? Do I not have it right? I’m I not allowed here? The three boys were almost there on his toes. His palms were hot, damp, out of sight. He blinked. Too often. Too soft. He couldn’t let himself fall apart, so he held himself together.
“You’re not from round here.” said the boy wearing his shiny black tie loose and pulled low.
“No. Not normally.”
“Where you from?”
“North. Near Manchester,” said Joe.
“Right. Explains a lot,” said the tallest boy. 
The other boys stood shoulder to shoulder. Looked alike.  
Joe had expected trouble. He had cursed himself for being an idiot. For going there. For this being the wrong place. For it being too late. He shrugged.“I just came.”
“Over there. Near the tree. Everyone else is going, already.”
The smaller boy curled his hands into fists. The one on the other side narrowed his eyes, wouldn't look that way. This one, the spokesman, was oldest. Not as old as Joe, but taller. 
“Sure, why not?” Joe asked.
“We brought scarves. Do you want one?”
“I’ve got my own,” said Joe as he took it off. He wrapped it around his fingers, couldn’t let it go.
“Gotta love football,” said the smaller boy.
“Go on,” said the other.
The scarf curled, caught by the breeze as it dropped. Down. Then lower. Into the unfilled hole. Landing whisper-soft on hollow wood.
Joe's hands were tight fists, he bit his lips, raised his eyes to boy who took a step closer.
“It’s OK Joe. He was your Dad too.”


  1. I can't say I know exactly whats going on, several thoughts, a fight, or a football game, or something

    But I did like your descriptions. I connected with Joe. Well done.

  2. That was different.

    I liked the behaviorial ques though.


  3. Hi Summer and Donna
    Thanks for stopping by and playing.
    Emotive writing and behavioural queues are important-how people appear to react. In this passage the information is restricted. The setting is too limited, and that is the point. :)

  4. You know, I really liked this scene! You did such a beautiful job painting it, letting us see his anxiety amongst the others, but it wasn't until the last bit that we understood what was going on. So yes, definitely limiting, but, this could work in literary fiction if you're trying to hide why he's behaving the way he is. I would probably add maybe one or two lines of subtle telling, just to establish the scenario, perhaps.

  5. Carolina! Hi!
    For this funeral scene, I spent ages cutting everything but dialogue and queues.
    Split families - especially where there is such limited contact - provide lots of angst and alienation.
    At least his younger brothers knew Joe existed. That had to be inferred at all points. :)

  6. I thought it was a funeral scene, but didn't get that until the end. Well done.

  7. Hi Patti
    I'm glad you were able to follow the emotional trail. I was fair and didn't mis-lead. I just avoided any obvious setting information.
    Sometimes you need to tell. ;)

  8. Very nicely written. I didn't get that it was a funeral until I read the comments, now it makes more sense. :)

  9. Hi Susan
    I hope you felt the heightened emotions - felt a little worried for Joe. I made a mental list of at least five possible reasons why he didn't want to let the scarf go.:)