Showing and Telling for Thanksgiving


Happy Thanksgiving to one and all! That said, I have to say that it is extremely inconsiderate of Abraham Lincoln to have scheduled a time-consuming national holiday near the closing stretch of everyone’s NaNoWriMo effort (I mean, the nerve!).  I do, however, have an entertaining suggestion to get you back on your creative track after you have finished dinner. It is also a very basic but extremely well done example of showing instead of telling.

Show, not tell. How often we hear those three words. We often find ourselves telling instead of showing, however, during our writing. It’s understandable because more it’s easier to write “Jack is tall” as opposed to “Jack was easy to spot. To say he looked like Gulliver among a roomful of Lilliputians would be an exaggeration, but not by much”  is harder, but it reads better and begins to set up the locale of your story. That isn’t the post-Thanksgiving creative jumper and example I was talking about, however; no, that would be a film titled Kristy, a slasher film for folks who don’t like slasher films.

Kristy is a very low budget holiday horror film (currently streaming on Netflix) that gets its money’s worth out of every production dime it spent.  The film stars Haley Bennett, who is currently prominently featured in the film adaptation of The Girl on the Train. If I were pitching the idea for Kristy I would call it “Die Hard goes to school.” The premise is fairly basic. A young woman named Justine unexpectedly finds herself alone on her small, rural college campus (but for a couple of  policemen) over the Thanksgiving holiday when she is unexpectedly pursued with great malice and bad intent by a group of masked individuals who insist on calling her “Kristy.” It’s a slow boil for the first half or so of the film, as we watch Justine bid her friends farewell and  go through the paces of studying, getting dinner from a vending machine, doing laundry, and some other mundane things. That first half is also the most important part of the movie, because we learn about Justine. I could tell you, but Kristy SHOWS you what she is studying and what one of her extracurricular activities is (two things that become very important during the second half of the film). Examples abound. The body language between Justine and Aaron, her boyfriend, during the short course of their post, pre-holiday boombah shows two people who aren’t quite on the same page of their relationship without a word being mentioned. Justine conveys compassion, courtesy, and angst with a sentence or a look; the long camera shots up the (initially) quiet and secluded dormitory corridors, with room doors cheerfully decorated create an atmosphere of solitude and loneliness. By the time that Justine attracts the attention of a group of murderous sleazoids when she makes a trip to a local convenience store we pretty much know that she is not the daughter of an Army Ranger who taught her everything she knew.  That doesn’t mean that she doesn’t know anything about defending herself. She just needs to apply what she knows to the matter of defending herself…if she can. If you pay attention to the first half of the movie, you’ll know what she can do, if the creeps don’t get her first.

Yes, there is violence during Kristy, but it’s not gratuitous (well, not entirely). While I wouldn’t let the youngsters watch it I wouldn’t let them watch Old Yeller, either. Kristy has a happier ending. Oh, and if you hate movies where a guy comes in and saves the damsel in distress you will absolutely love Kristy. The reason that I mention it here, however, is that it’s instructive in showing rather than telling, and entertaining too. The reason that I mention it now is that…well, it’s a Thanksgiving  holiday movie with a warm ending. Heh heh heh.

Again, Happy Thanksgiving, whether you take my recommendation or otherwise. Your turn now. What was your best or worst Thanksgiving? My best was in 2006 when my granddaughter was born. My worst was in 1994 when I set my kitchen on fire making dinner. You? And if you have had a Thanksgiving holiday like Justine, please share.

22 thoughts on “Showing and Telling for Thanksgiving

  1. Not the kind of movie I would normally watch, but based on your comments, I will definitely try it out.

    I often watch movies more than once, to study how the filmmakers accomplished certain objectives. Two movies I compared once were ENEMY OF THE STATE (with Will Smith) to THE NET with Sandra Bullock. I prefer the former because it doesn’t preach as much as the latter, i.e., the theme rises out of the action in the first, but is shoved in your face in the second. At least, that’s my opinion.

    Thanks for another great post, Joe.

    • Thank you Sheryl, for your kind words and your observations. I agree: subtle works in a movie, as opposed to a sledgehammer. It applies to other works of art as well. Enjoy!

  2. I will watch this one today, Joe! It sounds like it will let me work through some newfound violent impulses without, Yanno, actually hurting anyone or going to jail. ?

    • Kathryn, I totally get it, having had similar feelings for almost a decade (for different reasons, I’m sure) but which happily ended recently! Actually, the film version of DEATH WISH worked for me during that sad period…if you decide to give into your impulses, however, just be sure keep your head down, clean up your shells, and whatever else you do, don’t hang around or call 911 in the aftermath. In any event, enjoy KRISTY…I may watch it again tonight! Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Well I have to say you intrigued me greatly with the movie description though I will pass as I can’t do horror films (and I’m paranoid enough already 8-).

    Actually, I find Thanksgiving an ideal 4 day weekend to write when I have a project going. My family is 2500 miles away, and while some years I go home for Thanksgiving or Christmas, I usually stay here. And either my friends are also introverted or otherwise have families so they’re off doing their own thing. And I hate football. So that 4 day weekend of Thanksgiving is ideal for tackling projects. For which I AM truly thankful.

    I have no ‘best’ or ‘worst’ Thanksgiving stories. Though one year I hope to pop in here and tell you all I wrote an entire novella during Thanksgiving break. 😎

    • BK, if you (or any of our other friends out there) are ever inclined to feed your paranoia, try CREEP, also streaming on Netflix. You’ll never trust a stranger again. Otherwise, it sounds as though you have the holiday squared away. And by all means, please let us know if you get that novella done over Thanksgiving when (not if) that happens. Thanks!

  4. Good morning, Joe.

    My best Thanksgiving was back in the 60’s, when as a young kid I spent the holiday at my grandparents’, and my uncle taught me how to rabbit hunt.

    I thought you might like that one, with your interest in guns.

    Have a great Thanksgiving!

  5. Good morning, Steve! Thanks for sharing…I’m not a hunting guy, at all (unless it’s spiders, in which case I use a flamethrower, not a gun)…I like animals as a group better than people. I get the whole hunting world, however, and can appreciate your experience as a rite of passage. BTW…didn’t you mean in the 1980s? You weren’t even alive in the 1960s, were you? Hello? Hello?

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours as well, Steve!

  6. Really want to see Kristy now, though it’s ordinarily not my kind of movie. My wife and I saw Girl On The Train. I came away enthralled at the storytelling. Thank you for letting us know about Kristy.

    Thanksgiving is for giving thanks, and we do. That weekend is usually when I start my annual review of Koine Greek grammar review and reading of the New Testament, and I try to get hundreds of words written.

    I guess my favorite Thanksgivings were all of them–when my parents were alive, and when our children were home. Now, we usually spend Thanksgiving with various children and grandchildren and, in a couple of instances, great-grandchildren. My wife’s and my secret celebration is that she still brings her cornbread dressing to wherever we go. Love that dressing. And the unbroken record of favorite Thanksgiving remains intact.

    Happy Thanksgiving, Joe. I hope you are well.

    • Thank you, Jim, and I hope that you and yours are good as well. Great-grandchildren?! That’s terrific that you have so many generations and such a long string of good memories. And I didn’t know that you were expert in Koine Greek…amazing. Thanks for stopping by and safe journeys this coming weekend!

      • Actually, I’m not an expert. That’s why I have to keep reviewing. My son is an expert. He teaches it. My best, Jim

  7. I remember one year, when I was about 10 years old, we had a huge gathering for Thanksgiving dinner. All of the women cooked together and then shared in the clean-up afterward. I didn’t want to do the dishes, so I disappeared until I thought all the clean-up was finished. When I returned, I found all of the dishes were waiting for me and I had to wash them all by myself! I never tried that again. 🙂 Happy Thanksgiving to all!

    • Rebecca, that is a TERRIFIC story. I am laughing so hard that I can hardly type (though I imagine that your ten year old self was not happy). I have the feeling that the elders in your family might have had that method utilized on them in their youth and were passing it on. Happy Thanksgiving!

  8. Good afternoon Joe. Great post. I will look up the movie. As for Thanksgivings, my birthday comes that time of the year (the 27th), and falls on Thanksgiving every few years or so. Growing up, my memories were generally good. My mother, who hated being a housewife, worked outside the home far before it was common for women to do so. (in the 50’s and 60’s). She was the first woman city bus driver in Kansas City. She was good at many things, but her culinary skills were the reason I never eat at a restaurant that advertises “Mom’s home cooking.” If she put her recipes in a book it would be banned by the EPA. But once a year, she could make a Thanksgiving dinner that was spectacular. Turkey, sausage dressing, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie, the works. It never ceased to amaze me. We would feast on leftovers for as long as we could before returning to our usual deep fried pork and beans and hot dogs in cream of celery soup.

    She was the reason I learned to cook. The survival of my four siblings and me depended on it.

    Years later, my second daughter was born on my birthday, and now we try to get together every time it falls on Thanksgiving to celebrate.

  9. David, thank you for your kindness and for your great stories about growing up. My mom and grandmother were both terrific cooks who unfortunately took it as an insult of the highest order if you didn’t take seconds. Or thirds. I bear the mark of that to this day.

    We celebrate my granddaughter’s birthday on Thanksgiving when it falls on the holiday as well. She loves it. She wouldn’t be quite as happy about it if she had been born on Christmas, for sure!

    Happy Thanksgiving and safe journeys!

  10. I loved Thanksgivings as a kid at my grandparents’ house in Culver City, a stone’s throw from MGM Studios. My step-grandfather always made a great production of carving the turkey. My grandmother would place it before him, and he’d take a carving knife and honing rod and make several theatrical swipes – shink shink shink shink. And then he’d slice up the bird.

    There was something wonderful about that ritual.

    And about the pre-meal See’s candy. We could have two. I always went for the caramel-filled patties.

    • Jim, you’re a master. Of course we knew that. I can see in my mind’s eye your family gathered ’round while The Man carved up the turkey. Perfect. And the See’s candy.. I bet that was the best part of the day. Thanks for sharing and helping us remember, even if we weren’t there.

  11. I remember the year (not which one, though) when the Great Poisoned Cranberry Scare was thrust upon the nation. I was probably around 10 or 12, and I made a centerpiece of a graveyard with miniature cranberry cans scattered throughout.

    • Terry, I remember that, and I was about the same age. Thanks for sharing your clever and precocious way of dealing with it. If I had done something like that my parents would have had me in lock down for the weekend. They probably wished they had done so away. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and there aren’t enough Thanksgiving movies out there, imo. My favorite is Dutch, with Ed O’Neill. Thanks for pointing me to another one :).

    • Becca, you’re welcome, and thank you for stopping by and sharing. I hope this Thanksgiving is the best ever for you!

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