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Show and tell.

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French Maiden

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I've always been told that it's better to show rather then tell in regards to writing a story. But what does that mean?

I'm a little confused as to what it is to show and/or to tell.

Thanks French Maiden x
 

thothguard51

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There are already multiple threads that discuss this. You might want to do a search for Show and Tell, or Showing vs Telling...
 

MJNL

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It means put your reader in the moment.

Don't write: Diego went to the cave to kill the dragon. He was scared. That tells us what happened, but completely divorces us from the act.

Show us Diego killing the dragon. Use the senses, use strong verbs, put us there with Diego: As he wrenched his blade from its sheath, beads of sweat ran into Diego's eyes and blurred his vision. His heart pounded so strongly against his ribcage he was sure the vile creature could hear it...etc...

Here we understand Diego is scared without you having to say "he was scared." We get a direct sense of it, because we're there 'seeing' it happen.

ETA: Telling is good for summarizing. Showing is good for everything else.


And, as was said, there are a lot of threads on this already...
 
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French Maiden

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Sorry for my ignorance. I signed up a few months ago, but have just started activly using the site.

Thank you for your explination.
 

Summerwriter

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I always have had this problem. I mean I always keep telling and never showing.
 

Arcadia Divine

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I ran across a saying about show and tell, "Show what you want the reader to know, tell everything else." I do believe Orson Scott Card said that but I'm not sure.

I like to think of showing as acting. You're dramatizing it, making interesting to the reader so that way they don't close the book and walk away.

I like MJNL's example.
 

Bufty

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If nothing happens on the journey from A to B - you may decide to summarize that - ie., tell it -

Two days later Mark and Jo arrived in Sonora.
If something interesting and relevant to the unfolding tale happens during the journey - you may decide to tell it, too, or show it by covering the incident and relative dialogue, if any, in more detail.

As the train neared Pine Peak, Mark checked the carriage was still empty then leaned across and tapped Jo on the knee. "Wake up, Jo."

...and off you go with whatever is about to happen or whatever information Mark has to reveal or ask Jo about etc.,.

Show or tell - it's your choice completely. Do you wish to linger on something or not.
 

LadyDae

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I hate to say it, but search the thread. We just recently had a topic on this. I got so fed up I even did a blog post on it. But really, search the thread. I see at least one thread about this subject every two weeks, maybe more.
 

Dr.Gonzo

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There's obvious examples, but it can get tricky depending how deep/far you take it.

Tell: Emma was sad.

Show: Emma was curled on her bed, wiping her tears on the pillow.

So you've got tell and you've got show. People can be confused because even though with the second sentence you're showing she's sad, you're telling actions. Yes, but all writing is a form of telling. You're using words to depict a scene. You just have to use your own judgement in how deep you want to go into the scene.

At the most basic level, try the exercise of writing a scene full of emotion without using any words like love, hate, sad, angry... Try to describe a person emoting, rather than just telling how they're feeling.

Also, I've always thought the word 'imply' would work better than 'show'. That's how I see it. Imply, don't tell. The best writing I've ever done is what I left out between the lines.
 

French Maiden

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There's obvious examples, but it can get tricky depending how deep/far you take it.

Tell: Emma was sad.

Show: Emma was curled on her bed, wiping her tears on the pillow.

So you've got tell and you've got show. People can be confused because even though with the second sentence you're showing she's sad, you're telling actions. Yes, but all writing is a form of telling. You're using words to depict a scene. You just have to use your own judgement in how deep you want to go into the scene.

At the most basic level, try the exercise of writing a scene full of emotion without using any words like love, hate, sad, angry... Try to describe a person emoting, rather than just telling how they're feeling.

Also, I've always thought the word 'imply' would work better than 'show'. That's how I see it. Imply, don't tell. The best writing I've ever done is what I left out between the lines.


Thats excellent.

I always use alot of discription in my writing, but to hear it put this was really makes it easy to understand.

I like 'imply' also, it makes the whole discussion that much easier to undersatnd.
 

Kado

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Just be careful you don't take it too literally. If you show everything you end up with a 500 000 word novel that would be mostly tedious and exhausting to read. You just show the bits that are worth showing and tell everything else.
 

French Maiden

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Just be careful you don't take it too literally. If you show everything you end up with a 500 000 word novel that would be mostly tedious and exhausting to read. You just show the bits that are worth showing and tell everything else.


Yes, i can absolutelly see how it could get out of hand so very easily.

I've got just under 15,000 words and 4 chapters so far.

So it's a combination of the two that will give the best outcome. :) Thanks people x
 

Libbie

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Telling: "Jim was mad."

Showing: "Jim frowned and pounded his fist on the table."

Like Kado said, you can go overboard. Sometimes telling is preferable, but it's a good rule of thumb to show nearly all the time. You'll know when telling will be more appropriate, as you get more into writing.
 

The Lonely One

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They're two buzz words among writers that are vague and meaningless without practical application and a general grasp of narrative dynamics.

Show instead of tell isn't good advice in and of itself. It's dangerous rhetoric.

What I always value is where the advice originated from, ignoring the overly-broad and assumptive phrasing itself.

As others have likely said already, you want the narrative to do its own work, and the danger of "telling" arises only when it would be used as a crutch, thus weakening a scene that needs to stand on its own.

That need can be determined by the writer's instinct about any number of factors, including pacing and how much emphasis you may want to place on a certain passage or action.

At least, that's been my experience with it.
 
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seyelint

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Balance is the key to show and tell. There are times when a story needs both so don't rid one totally from your story or rely on one fully.

There are times when telling is required also.

This all takes some practice to get it smooth, so don't be frustrated by your initial confusion/misunderstanding, it will come.

Great advice from above posters.

Best writing to you
 

ChristyMP

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Love this quote: [FONT=georgia, bookman old style, palatino linotype, book antiqua, palatino, trebuchet ms, helvetica, garamond, sans-serif, arial, verdana, avante garde, century gothic, comic sans ms, times, times new roman, serif]Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. ~Anton Chekhov[/FONT]
 

Lady Ice

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Just tell the story and tell it in an exciting way. Don't worry about the difference between "showing" and "telling", just make the dramatic moments sound dramatic, instead of just mumbling them.
 

jaksen

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I just finished a fairly short, new novel by a celebrated author. Almost one-fourth of the thing (the beginning) was TELL. All background. About the MC's family and who her great-grandparents were and the houses they lived in and who was who in a huge, extended family.

Guess what. It was done so well I didn't care. The real story didn't start until about page 50.

I suppose I'm saying with skill, one can do just about anything in writing.
 
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