The boy’s face was pale and his cheeks were slightly hollow – showing versus telling


Bran took his car keys from the ignition and flipped through the file he got from the children’s court. Both parents were still in the picture, that was something at least. Mum had psychological difficulties, but the most acute problems came from dad’s alcohol abuse and his loose hands.

Their 15-year-old son Mark had had a couple of incidents with the police. Nothing too serious so far, but it hadn’t done the relationship with his father any good. A recent collision between the two had resulted in a couple of firm smacks for Mark. A visit to the first aid had been inevitable, and a red flag had been raised at youth care.

Bran put the file in his bag and got out of the car. The fierce wind brushed against his neck. For a moment, he hesitated as he looked up at the big grey apartment building. Then he walked on, searching for the right entrance. Most of the nameplates had disappeared and some of the doorbells were plastered with chewing gum. Welcome to the north of Amsterdam.

Bran only had to ring once before the buzzer sounded. He pushed the door open and stepped into the stairwell. Between the garbage and the old bikes, he worked his way up. The front door was ajar.

‘Hello? It’s Branimir Ulak, your family guardian.’ He pushed the door open and glanced into the hallway. Voices were coming from the room at the end. He walked in and peeked around the first door. From the bed, two eyes glared in his direction. The boy’s face was pale and his cheeks were slightly hollow, but his dark eyebrows and piercing eyes undoubtedly made him popular with the girls. His hands played with a pocket knife.

‘You must be Mark,’ Bran said while putting a smile on his face.


Another interesting assignment from my writing course asked us to experiment with the old saying “show, don’t tell”. The first part of the scene had to tell us something about a new character, while the second part had to show an interaction between my original character (Bran) and the new character (max 350 words).

To avoid a summary of facts that would look very unnatural, I decided to introduce a court file for the telling part of the scene. 🙂

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