Lola Sharp put up a fantastic post about showing and not telling at her place, Sharp Pen/Dull Sword yesterday. Not only does her post detail the various faux pas‘ associated with telling, but she provides a plethora of insightful examples.
I am up for air after two weeks going through the ground school ringer. I feel smart(er) on flying this new aircraft, and this week, the movers are busy as bees depositing our various belongings in boxes for our move to Sicily. Quite obviously, the blog has suffered, but I am anxious to get back to a more regular routine. I thank you all for your patience and promise that things will return to normal again soon.
As I am getting back in the groove, Lola’s post reminded me of a breakthrough I had last year which, for all intents and purposes, launched me on the current writer’s trajectory I am on now. And it dealt with showing vs. telling.
Her post does a much better job of describing the “how” of showing vs. telling than I ever could. But my breakthrough came when I read an article that explained the “why” behind the showing vs. telling rule. I read this fantastic article by Alexander Chee, and the following quote swept through my synapses like a Texas cyclone, clearing away all the old detritus that kept me from realizing what I’d been missing all along:
If you’re doing your job, the reader feels what you felt. You don’t have to tell the reader how to feel. No one likes to be told how to feel about something. And if you doubt that, just go ahead. Try and tell someone how to feel.
In short, nothing has been the same since.
You see, when you tell instead of show, the sin you commit is to essentially act like a referee or TV announcer who stands between the characters in your story and the reader and says: “OK. That’s out of bounds. OK. He just scored. OK. She’s now twenty points behind.”
If you effectively show, then there’s no offending emcee. The reader sees the scene–but far more importantly, the reader is allowed to interpret the scene. In my humble opinion, that is the reason why showing is so critical to good writing. This a good recipe for keeping readers engaged. Show a scene, trust your reader to understand it, and they’ll learn to love you for it.
What are some of your tips and tricks that help you with showing instead of telling? What the was the source of a recent writing breakthrough?