Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Show, Don’t Tell

Show, don’t tell. We writers hear this all the time, especially from established writers. It’s up near the top of the list of advise given to writes, right under “Write every day,” and just above “Read lots, too.” But, in my experience, this is also the one writer tip that gets derided most by my fellow writers. And I often wonder why. I mean, there’s a reason why this is near the top of the list of writer advice.

Here’s what I hear most.

“It’s really hard to show instead of telling.”

True. But, the end result is also much better, and therefore, worth it. Also, I have found that the more time you spending trying to showing instead of telling, the easier it becomes. I have now got to the point that when I re-read my stories, I can tell when I’m telling, and often, it makes me cringe. So, to throw in another cliché into this article, practice makes perfect.

“Sometimes, the story just demands telling.”

I’m not so sure about this one honestly. I mean, I want to say this is also true, but I can’t think of an example. Info dumping is a bad idea in general, and it’s always better if you can get the info to the audience through dialogue or scenery or even actual story. So, I’m going to chalk this up to, I’m just not experienced enough to answer it properly. And beyond info dumping, I can’t think of anything. So if you know a reason why it’s better to tell and not show, let me know.

I think that’s all I got for now. I’m going to re-visit this topic tomorrow with an example of how to take a paragraph that is telling and make it show instead. My hope is that I can show how much better the show paragraph is.

So, until then… uh… go write? Yeah, go write.

I need a closing phrase.

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