- Jan 31, 2023
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That is what I do but man is it still difficultThe same as at anything else: study and practice.
That is what I do but man is it still difficult
I read alot and more slowly and pay attention how the author is writing the scenes.HOW are you doing this? Taking notes on passages that particularly work/don't work for you? Discuss these scenes with someone? Write "practice" scenes trying out some of the things you've seen to see how they work? Beta readers? There are dozens of ways this could be done. Finding the ones that work for you is the key.
I read alot and more slowly and pay attention how the author is writing the scenes.
So for example showing may beFor me, feedback helped. Not saying you have to share your work, but it does work. Others set their writing aside for a few days to a month or two to a year so they can read it as impartially as possible.
If you have your first story, try reading it with the knowledge you have gained over the time you've been writing. If not, try with the oldest story you have access to.
A psychology grounding technique might help. Instead of yourself, think what can your character see, hear, smell, fell, touch in the scene. Use one or as many as appropriate.
It's not just physical senses. Quick example time, I think.
Telling: Jane couldn't stand her boyfriend's yappy dog, so she went out to work in her garden until she calmed down. It had rained last week, if nothing else, she should check that the plants were all right.
Showing: Jane couldn't take another moment with that damn dog's yapping. She went outside, in her backyard. She wondered if she could ever afford to replace the chain link with a wooden picket fence, a tall one for privacy. She didn't bother with the trowel, just started pulling the weeds. Slowly, the ache in her shoulders eased. Dug her hands deep into the sunwarmed soil. Just a hint of moisture. Good, the roots hadn't gotten waterlogged in that downpour last week.
So for example showing may be
Dove stared into the sun. Its intense heat wrapping around her pale skin, and her divine eyes being unphased by the burning light. If she was a regular mortal, she would have went blind. Instead, she squinted her eyes almost as if the sun was a human lightblub.
Yeah I will need to practice that grounding technique alot but I feel like that will help.
Great! Immersion is a great way to get a gut feeling for how things are done. I, however, tend to be too analytical for my own good (for real--I can get too caught up on if something fits a particular formula) but it serves me well in that I can identify specific tools and have examples of how they can be used well (or not, as the case may be). If my gut is telling me this particular showing is super effective, I can linger on it and look at the dialog tags, the actions, the descriptions of objects and actions, etc. If something is coming off as particularly clumsy or talk-downy, I ask myself what tool the writer was using in this case (see the other thread on As You Know, Bob), and what might have been a more engaging way to do so. I also look for when a tiny bit of telling is a good thing, versus when it's a bad thing.I read alot and more slowly and pay attention how the author is writing the scenes.
Is there a risk that someone may do purple prose if they show too muchI think if you're struggling to think of ways to show things rather than telling it, then it's more mental work you have to do. Telling is pretty straight forward:
"Jack likes to play football."
(by which of course I mean soccer, because I'm British)
Showing takes more creativity: how do I show that Jack likes to play football? Maybe he can have a conversation with a team mate about football. Or maybe I can write a scene where he's just finished training or just about to go to training. Or maybe I could bring one of his games into the plot somehow...
The thinking/imagining part of writing stories can be practiced just as the writing part can, except you're not constrained to butt in chair staring at a screen/page type of practice... you can do the mental work anywhere you're able to let your mind wander. It's especially good when you're stuck in a situation where you'd otherwise have to be bored and annoyed, like being stuck in traffic. Rather than mentally hating on other drivers, roads in general, the local council and its bizarre ideas about what constitutes good town planning, and whoever else, I can be dreaming up scenes in my head that I'm going to write later on. It's less stressful too.
An important thing to understand though is that showing isn't automatically better than telling. Knowing when to tell and when to show is just as important as figuring out how to show things. Sometimes writers aren't actually struggling with showing, they're trying too hard to show too many things all the time, and when it doesn't work, they think it's because they're crap at showing rather than realising it's not working because it's a situation when it's better to tell.
That's a matter of how something is shown, not to what extent. It might become a little too granular, though -- e.g., Hemingway's fetish for paragraphs of filler action that don't really add to the story.Is there a risk that someone may do purple prose if they show too much
Is there a risk that someone may do purple prose if they show too much
Jane slumped on the sofa, tears rolling down her face as she ate the entire pack of Jaffa Cakes, the yellow-orange empty wrapper crinkling in her sticky, chocolate-stained hands as she clenched her fists and shouted to the heavens "Why? Why me?!?"
Reading scenes or actually, the whole MS out loud to myself helped me find areas where I was doing a lot of telling instead of showing. As I'm reading I'll catch something and start thinking of better ways to word it so I'm describing rather than telling.This is my biggest struggle with writing. How did you all get better at showing as I been writing for about two years and I am still struggling.
Show effectively, and tell effectively.This is my biggest struggle with writing. How did you all get better at showing as I been writing for about two years and I am still struggling.
Will you risk the reader skipping through it if it too much informationI echo what everyone says above about the purple. Related to purple but separate, is detail for the sake of detail ("overshowing"?).
To riff of Neandermagnon's example:
A good bit of that is not necessary to show that she is sad. The stuff I added is not helpful, even if it paints a more detailed mental image.
Oh I get it. For example if I want to show someone is cold, I can have the mc say he is cold via dialogueYou know the common tweet structure, "Tell me you're [a thing] without telling me you're [that thing]"? That is the essence of showing vs. telling. It really means "Show me you're [that thing]."
Figure out what it is you want your reader to know -- that the weather is unseasonably cold? That your POV character is a lonely teenager? That the economic system in your story's world is based on barter instead of currency? Whatever aspect of setting, characterization, worldbuilding, backstory, plot that you want to convey, set it clearly in your mind, and then pretend your readers asked you to "tell me [a thing] without telling me [that thing]."
- Tell me the weather is unseasonably cold without telling me the weather is unseasonably cold. --> Show me the weather is unseasonably cold (usually through the actions or perceptions of a character).
- Tell me the POV character is a lonely teenager without telling me the POV character is a lonely teenager --> Show me the POV character is a lonely teenager (usually through the actions or perceptions of the character)
and so on.