Saturday, January 11, 2014

Show and Tell

Hello fellow adventurers!  Welcome to another edition of my blog.  Today we're going to talk about one of the mantras of all good writers.  It's something that I have heard over and over again.  Show don't Tell.  It's something that I have struggled with when writing my first draft, and I'm paying for it now that I am editing.

This past week I have been working on Chapter 8 of my current work in progress.  It started off with some exposition that mentions a conversation between two of the main characters.  I thought, "Why didn't I include that conversation?"  I rewrote a small portion of the chapter and created a whole new chapter.  It also has increased my word count to over 60,000.  That has been my target for this novel from the start.  It will be a little less than my target once I delete the two paragraphs this chapter replaces.  I was able to kill two birds with one stone.

The mantra I referred to earlier is "Show don't Tell".  I see it repeated over and over again in advice blogs, on twitter, and anywhere else you can find authors.  I'm going to tackle this topic backwards starting with "Tell".  As always I want to hear what YOU think!  Why do you think this has become such an important saying with writers? Do you think exposition/telling is good?  Let me know!  My little social media icons are begging you to touch them!


What is telling?  Is it like when I did something bad, and my (insert sibling's name here) said, "I'm Telling!"

Telling is using exposition to tell a story that has already happened. Exposition is a detailed statement or explanation.  This can also be known as an info-dump. This is a long dark path towards poor writing. 

For example: The characters engage in a heated debate about what to do next.  The author types in detail what each plan is and why they chose the plan that they did.

Why is it bad?

There are many reasons this is bad.  It's harder to read.  It can bore your readers to tears.  It makes kittens cry.  OK maybe not that last one.  Most of the time it will burden your readers with information they don't need. The biggest problem is that you take your characters out of the story.  They aren't taking an active role.  They are still there, but they are sitting on their butts twiddling their thumbs waiting for something to happen. The readers are basically doing the same thing. 


What is showing? It's not like those sex offenders I hear about on the news is it?

Don't worry! This won't get you arrested. I hope not anyway. Showing is keeping everything in the moment.  It is typing out everything as it happens, and how your characters act and react.

For example: The same situation as the previous example.  The author this time types out the whole debate.  The author could also skip that and go right to the characters executing the plan.

Why is it good?

It is what rainbows are made of! Not really. Showing makes the story easier to read.  It is the opposite of Telling as it pertains to it's effect on readers.  Showing keeps the readers in the here and now with your characters.



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