Friday, October 29, 2010

Writing Tip -- Show and Tell

Years ago, Jane Toombs and I had a crazy idea to write a non-fiction book about writing. The book took us nearly two years to complete. Becoming Your Own Critique Partner won the EPIC ebook award known then as the EPPIE in 2003 for non-fiction. I thought I'd read it over and start to pull tips from the book for those who are writers, so here goes. Hopefully Jane will chime in when she has a chance.

The first Chapter is Your Tell Needs Showing and is about showing rather than telling. There's nothing wrong with an author using some telling in their story. Tell is facts and can be dry and boring. Tell generally takes fewer words than showing. Some tell passages can be adorned by multiple adjectives but they're still showing just the facts. Show is emotions and action.

As a draft writer, my initial telling of any story I'm writing is just that. Tell. There is little but the facts spelled out. On future drafts I must flesh out my story and make the facts interesting to the reader.

Look at this passage. The six foot tall John's shoulders were broad. That's telling.
John towered over her. Just how tall was he. Her sister said six feet, but she was sure her sister lied. His broad shoulders seemed about to split the seams of his
coat. That's showing.

Sometimes show is really tell. When two people tell each other what they already know. The author is telling the reader. There's no real action, reaction of emotion.

Something I have a tendency to do and get called on it all the time is to give a long list of items in an information dump. Don't forget it you want to give the reader a list, show them. This may take more words but it is more satisfying to the reader.

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