Say It, Without Saying It…

How do we say something without actually saying it when we write? It’s all about showing using body language, and not telling.

One of my favourite songs is ‘Baby makes her blue jeans talk” by Dr Hook. I know. I think my parents were too young for the sixties and embraced Disco with a tad too much enthusiasm. I was raised on rock, folk and disco with a huge dose of mirror ball.

Anyway, I have always been enchanted by the image this song creates. It is one sentence that makes for a very memorable character:

“She don’t say nothing, but Baby makes her blue jeans talk.”

In fiction writing we tend to state the obvious and leave very little up to the reader’s imagination. But what an intriguing notion, a character who doesn’t speak. I am addicted to dialogue, but what if I try this? How will I convey her character? If she isn’t saying anything how do we know who Baby is?

Show Dont Tell - Writing Tips with Writers Write

What can that one sentence tell us about Baby?

  1. Baby has a well-shaped derriere. Gym or genetic?
  2. She wears jeans. Does she have a casual job, no job or is she off duty?
  3. She walks with confidence. The jeans talk, they don’t moan and groan.
  4. She is rather mysterious. They don’t know her name.
  5. The tone suggests an informal atmosphere.
  6. The ‘dialect’ indicates a story set in the American South.

So there I have setting, tone and character. Imagine if every sentence worked as hard. Would the writing have been as powerful if I wrote the following?

A woman walked down the street in the American South wearing pants. They were tight fitting blue jeans. She was swaying her posterior in an enticing manner. She did not say anything, but walked along with confidence. She was attractive. No one knew who she was so they called her Baby.

Once again less is more. Let your character keep quiet for once and use body language instead. Who knows maybe they look good in blue jeans too.

Or not. That could be fun too.

(You can also try our FREE COURSE: How To Show And Not Tell In Short Stories)

by Mia Botha

If you enjoyed this post, read:

  1. 6 Things To Consider Before You Cross Your Genres
  2. The Writing Muse I Really Need
  3. A Writer’s Sketchbook

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Posted on: 17th July 2013

0 thoughts on “Say It, Without Saying It…”

  1. I loved the insight of this. It reminded me of an earlier “assignment” that I had had written about “description”. I had to study my subject from far away (jotting down my findings), then closer and so on. It was great fun, and I learned so much about that 300 word assignment, that it will stick with me forever. ~The center piece does not have to be the human that is occupying the bluejeans. It’s the whole picture (LOVE IT) ~Thank you

  2. I can’t see all the other comments, so forgive me if this has already been covered. “Baby” also conveys possessive intimacy, as in “my baby.” So, she could be the narrator’s girlfriend.