Remember Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison facing off in the movie My Fair Lady, the famous adaption of George Bernard Shaw’s stage play Pygmalion?
Spunky girl, Eliza Doolittle, the living, breathing language experiment of Henry Higgins, screams in exasperation when her boyfriend Freddy declares his love in elegant, eloquent words, “Words, words, words, I’m so sick of words. If you’re in love, show me!”
Then she follows up, insisting even louder,
Don’t talk of stars
If you’re in love,
Tell me no dreams
Filled with desire.
If you’re on fire,
Here we are together
In the middle of the night!
Don’t talk of spring!
Just hold me tight!
Anyone who’s ever been
In love’ll tell you that
This is no time for a chat! . . .
Sing me no song!
Read me no rhyme!
Don’t waste my time,
Never do I ever want to hear another word.
There isn’t one I haven’t heard.
Here we are together in
What ought to be a dream;
Say one more word and I’ll scream!
. . .
Don’t wait until wrinkles and lines
Pop out all over my brow,
Show me now!
Writing tutors all over the world coach their protégés to show rather than tell, for example:
Eliza stormed out of the room. (telling)
“That’s it!” Eliza shouted. (showing)
“I’ll tell you how the sun rose—a ribbon at a time.” ~ Emily Dickinson (both showing and telling)
In other words, writers are urged to transmit sensory experiences to the reader, rather than just relaying information.
How do they do that? They summon the character’s five senses, they often insert dialogue and choose vivid verbs–among other techniques.
I believe there is space in a writer’s bag of tricks to do both: vivid telling and expressive showing in the description of setting, and in character and plot development.
And so, I’ll show you in 8 pictorial steps, which sketchily illustrate the process of creating My Checkered Life: A Marriage Memoir this past year.
Just as home improvement shows compress 3-5 months of design and construction work into a 40-minute show, the steps below skip over lots of time and plenty of material, including a melt-down or two. Maybe even a marital argument!
1. Combed through family documents (Beaman, Koethe, and Longenecker) to find content for the “heritage” section of the book.
2. Completed first draft of My Checkered Life A Marriage Memoir (then approx. 220 pages) a single-spaced WORD document, September 7, 2022. The final manuscript expanded into 352 pages, including photographs and illustrations.
3. Published writing requires an ISBN number (different for both print and e-book) along with metadata. Three categories of metadata are shown on the book’s back cover. Here are more specific identifiers listed with distributors: Metadata: memoir—biography—Christian women—women’s studies—marriage—self-realization—anniversary gift
4. Husband Cliff volunteered to transform WORD documents (some handwritten) into an InDesign layout. He didn’t realize how challenging it would be to learn the nuances of this highly sophisticated software program, nor did I understand the challenges of taking on many more publishing tasks than in my first memoir.
5. Cliff’s original artwork accompanied numerous restored photos to illustrate chapters in the book. Some started out as “studies” in colored pencil and water-color shown here.
6. Author, speaker, and podcaster Katherine Hutchinson-Hayes interviewed me for a podcast months before book launch. Several author friends/mentors who comment here often agreed to write an endorsement for this book: Laurie Buchanan, Melodie Miller Davis, Elfrieda Shroeder, Shirley Showalter, and Pamela Wight. Huge thanks!
7. “Write a book with your husband/wife/partner.” Said no one ever!
Still, we managed to make it through unscathed. And we discovered that the months writing/revising/formatting a book together turned into a microcosm of the peaks and valleys of our married life in general.
8. In January 2023 I received a press proof copy of my book, available for my inspection. This was just the beginning of another intense round of revisions and editing to bring the book up to snuff.
April 5, 2023 is the official launch date. 😀
You can purchase the book here!
In one ending to the movie, the Cockney flower girl transforms into a self-possessed woman, who can function independently of her sparring partner, the elocutionist Henry Higgins or her well-born boyfriend, Freddy Eynsford-Hill.
She probably learns also that she doesn’t have to be dressed to the nines to stand out.
What do you like about Eliza Doolittle as portrayed in My Fair Lady? Have you seen the stage play Pygmalion?
Can you add more steps in the writing process to the sketchy outline I’ve pictured here? What was the easiest part for you? the hardest?