“Show, don’t tell” is probably the first bit of wisdom I received (from everyone) as a fledgling writer. In pretty much every book on writing, at every conference I’ve attended, at some point in every webinar and seminar I still find a session on “Show, don’t tell.” Here’s what I’ve learned.
For this discussion I’m borrowing information from three books ON MY SHELF:
- Self-editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King
- 100 Things Every Writer Needs to Know by Scott Edelstein
- The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them) by John M. Bickham
TELLING a story involves narrative. The writer describes what is happening in the story present. Or the writer explains how a character looks or behaves. The writer explains the setting behind the events that are occurring in the story present. The writer TELLS me “about” stuff.
It helps me to remember that TELLING a story is like the “once upon a time” stories I heard in childhood. This and this happened to the MC. Then this happened. Then, oh, my, worse and worse things happened until the story ended like this.
However, SHOWING a story involves creating an experience for readers. When you are SHOWING a story you not only pull back a curtain and let the reader watch what is happening, you plunk the reader down in the middle of the action and emotion of the story. You don’t describe the MC as short, round and rosy-cheeked. You show her to the readers through the eyes of another character, or, through her actions and reactions to an event that is happening.
Again, it helps me to think of SHOWING as the writer rolling a movie for the reader, so that the reader becomes intimately involved in the story, that she experiences the story as it unfolds.
It also helps me to remind myself to use specific, descriptive NOUNS, and specific, colorful VERBS. And, to avoid ADJECTIVES and ADVERBS when possible.
Is that it? Come back next week, folks, for Part 2 of this exciting adventure!