Stood at the coalface
- Jun 9, 2009
- Reaction score
Bold *Hiccup* too close to *hiccup* quotes. I need a decent editor for my posts...
I have a bad habit of telling when i should show. I have had some poeple tell me thats my problem. And ive read a thread that says its okay to have a mixture, but i can't even do that. I tell to much. does anyone have any ideas of how to help Show intead of tell?
Read books! Real books! Novels of the type you wish to write.
Read them -don't skim them....
Like Bufty said, we may not want to read all the boring, mundane details of how the guy gets on the boat, but by George, please show us HOW all Hell broke loose.
Buttered or salted?
It's important to show how all hell broke loose, but is it bad to still tell that it did? It seems like you should be able to say something like "As soon as he stepped on the boat, all hell broke loose." Followed by a description of what happened.
Maybe I should give readers more credit, but I get the impression that if you give them a hint about how they're supposed to feel about the events that are about to transpire, they are more likely to have the appropriate reaction.
So what if the boat capsized and the grill fell in the water. Maybe the reader doesn't like bbq. (okay, extreme example, but you get my point.) By saying all hell broke loose, you are telling the reader to be prepared for everything that is about to happen.
Showing comes when you exhchange those realtion verbs 'was, were, is are' and when you change abstract language (beautiful, happy, colourful) for words you can easily picture (house, car, settees -- anything that the reader can quickly and easily picture in their heads).
[Maxim] Sure, in the examples you gave it might seem that way, but I don't believe it always works that way and in fact I would say that it often doesn't. It isn't about making the reader believe that it is a tragedy even though they don't like bbq, but it is about imparting the experience of the main character. Readers can imagine that they care that the bbq fell into the water if they are told that they should. Giving indicators for what they should expect, and informing them of how the mood shifts makes the read easier and more accessible. I think it can make the story flow.
In your example, saying the meal was scrumptious before describing it may or may not be appropriate depending on context. The company might have been dismal, but the food was delightful. It draws contrast and sets the reader up for a more positive mood shift. In your example, it is very clear that the meal is scrumptious from your description, but it isn't always that clear, because situations aren't always that clear. Sometimes the reader should be directed regarding how they should interpret something when multiple interpretations are possible, as they very often are.
I know fiction is different and can break a lot of rules set in place for other types of writing, but I still believe it's best to make things as easy on the reader as possible, and if that means topic sentences to help them glide more easily through the story, all the better. Telling guides them through what happened and allows them to parse out the shifts in plot while descriptions make it real.
Sometimes the reader should be directed regarding how they should interpret something when multiple interpretations are possible, as they very often are.
The meal was scrumptious. Broken pieces of dry chicken. Charred corn. Flat soda.
Telling: Martha called Jake. Is telling.
Showing: Martha quickly keyed his number. Her heart beat loudly as she watched the men who were following her round the corner. "Answer, please," she thought, feeling as she had the last time Buddy tried to molest her ... etc. Is showing.
I think you're missing my point about the intention when using telling in that circumstance. Some things should be left to judgment. Other things are only important in how they are perceived by the mc. If you describe oysters and wine to me as the reader, I would be suppressing a gagging reflex, not thinking "yum". On the other hand, very rare and even raw steak can make my mouth water, to many that would be disgusting. I could describe it all I want, but I'd better tell my reader what reaction that description is supposed to illicit. Of course, there are always ways around it, I could spend a paragraph describing the meal and another describing the reaction, but I believe that should be reserved only for very important instances. One simple telling sentence solves the problem and helps them interpret the rest.
Well, how does the character feel about the meal? I would be less worried about conveying to my readers the sense that the meal is delicious than conveying to my readers the sense that the character thinks that the meal is delicious.