Showing Not Telling in Sleepless in Seattle


I’m married and have four daughters. I am forced to watch chick flicks. But, I have to be honest. Some I don’t mind. Sleepless in Seattle is one of those. I was rewatching it over the break and was struck by some particularly good writing. There is one scene about mid-movie where Tom Hanks’s character is tucking his son into bed. They are talking about the boy’s mom, who has passed away. He says to his dad:

I’m starting to forget her.

And after a thoughtful pause, the dad says,

She could peel an apple…in one long, curly strip. The whole apple.

That’s it. They say “I love you” and the boy goes to sleep.

It’s a beautiful, tender scene and a powerful example of concise writing.

I’d love to explain why this example of concrete detail is so moving. But I would just ruin it. So, I won’t. Enjoy.


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About the Author

Brian WaskoBrian is the founder and president of One of his passions is to teach young people how to write better.View all posts by Brian Wasko

  1. Brian Wasko
    Brian Wasko01-10-2012

    Right. And the way to keep from forgetting is to remember the little details. No words can describe a face. Not well. But remember the little things that make someone uniquely human and the face comes back with the rest of her.

    And the writing is so good because the characters say just enough. Not more than necessary.

  2. Nelly smith
    Nelly smith01-10-2012

    Great post Brian! That movie just came in the mail today…I put it on the queue almost soley with that scene in mind. Jordan’s never seen it the whole way through. For some reason that scene is so “real life” and simple, yet powerful…he misses his wife and all the little details that made her, her…

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