What is the primary difference between the following few sentences?

  • Jim is a kid who gets bullied at school.
  • Jim nibbles his sandwich. He hides, perched on the toilet with feet pressed against the stall door. Choking on the cruel taunts from Matt and the others, he can hardly swallow.

In fundraising, to get someone to give, you must get them to feel first. To get someone to feel, you can’t simply tell them what to think or believe (bullet one). You must draw an image in their mind (bullet two). 

Lisa Cron, our writing guru and the author of Wired for Story calls this “The Eyes Wide Shut” test. If you shut your eyes, can you see it? If not, then neither can the reader.

Mark and I led a storytelling training for 30 non profit communicators in South Carolina last week. It was a great reminder of how difficult it is for all writers — even experienced ones — to show and not tell.

Does your copy pass the “Eyes Wide Shut” test?