How Many Times Have You Heard, Show Don’t Tell?

Happy late Memorial Day to everyone. I hope you all had a wonderful time of relaxation with family and friends – or just a time to kick back and lessen the pressure and stress that so easily creeps up on us. Now, are you ready to dig in for the rest of the summer?

Let’s revisit the first rule of writing. Show, don’t tell. We know what we’re supposed to do, but do we – at least with consistency? Let me give you five ways you might be telling when you could be showing.

  1. Giving too much information at one time may cause telling, especially relating to backstory. Rather than dump the whole thing on us at one time. Spread the information throughout the story. Try to not use more than three sentences at a time. Dialogue can be effective in revealing information pertinent to your piece.
  2. Don’t get into the habit of always using words to express your character. Sometimes, things are better off left unsaid. Let the action make the statement.
  3. Writing is about sharing your character intimately with your reader. There needs to be an emotional connection. When emotion is lacking, it may be because you’re telling too much. Back off and show it. A beta reader might be helpful. It’s hard for us, as authors, to know how our material affects an outsider. We’re too close to the story to see straight at times.
  4. Could it be your scenes are too short? If every scene feels like an introduction or summary, then you may have a telling problem. Telling takes fewer words, and it leaves scenes feeling like they end before they even begin. It’s like telling a friend the plot of a scary movie versus making them see it themselves. You can tell a story in a minute, but the movie takes at least an hour.
  5. A story is like a puzzle. It comprises various pieces the reader needs to put together. If there are no puzzle pieces for the reader to apply, you’ve probably told too much. Don’t spoon-feed your readers. They want to do the work, investigate for themselves, and discover the secrets within. Showing allows them to do this. Telling takes the work – and the fun out of it. No doubt you’ll lose your reader.

Well, there you have it! Stay safe and healthy until next time.

WFK

6 thoughts on “How Many Times Have You Heard, Show Don’t Tell?

  1. This is my mantra with new or struggling writers. Surprisingly, it is a tough lesson for many. I think it’s one of those things that separates the really good writers from the mediocre. Great reminder, my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

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