Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Wednesday's Writer's Tip - Tell and Show - Elements of the Novel - Eileen Charbonneau

We're probably all been told to show not tell. I know I have at least a dozen times. But there's nothing wrong with using some tell in your story. Our early days of reading or being read to gave us a lot of tell in the stories. What Eileen Charbonneau has done in this chapter from Elements of Fiction is to tell us what the element of show in our stories can add to the depth.

Telling can be static but it can be dynamic so don't take out all the tell in your story, One place is moving characters from one scene to another. You could say John left the house and went to Megan's. Or you could add a little touch that gives a hint of why he's going or what he's feeling. Tell is giving the facts. I once critiqued a story where the entire first chapter was in the tell mode with the character leaving his home and giving in detail everything he saw along the way. After a time I wanted to know what was happening here. That's where show could have helped.

Why does a writer need show in his stories. The first reason is to engage the reader by giving them a picture of the character's nature. Show can have the character interacting with the setting and giving a focus to the story. Show can trigger a memory and produce a hopefully short flash into the past. Show really is what brings a story to life and helps with the pacing.

I often look at my rough drafts and realize most of what I've written is in the tell mode. I have been known to make what will become a scene and express it in a single sentence. There's a fight scene here. They make love. When I'm working on the other drafts I have to go through and show what is happening in these scenes.

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