THE SHOW AND TELL GAME
April 13, 2012 | It's All About Writing
Show don’t tell is a confusing phrase that has many new writers yanking their hair out. What does it mean? How do I do it? Leave those Clairol locks in place because the explanation is simple.
Showing is action. It is what your character is doing at that moment. Telling is passive writing, a weak way to explain what your character is doing. It can also be considered author intrusion, a big no-no to editors.
Here are a few examples;
Telling – Liz had on a red suit with a white rose in the lapel and a white linen blouse.
Showing – Liz plucked a white rose from the bouquet on the coffee table. Carefully, she slipped the thorny stem into her lapel. She glanced in the mirror and smiled at how perfect the flower’s creamy color looked against the red jacket. With a tug on her blouse cuff, gently so as not to wrinkle the linen, Liz headed for the door.
Telling – There was shouting from the balcony.
Showing – Shouts echoed from the balcony.
Telling – The dog show was judged by Frank.
Showing – Frank judged the dog show.
Telling – Mary was sad.
Showing – Mary turned toward Joel. His heart broke when he saw her lips tremble and the pain in her eyes.
In many cases, showing requires more words to paint the right picture and that’s a good thing if they enhance the scene.
To easily locate the places where you “tell”, hold down the Control key while you press the letter F key. It will bring up a Find and Replace panel. Type in a word not used in your book, then click ‘Find Next’. Read each sentence and/or section that appears. Should it or could it be more active? You may be surprised at how your novel will improve by this simple exercise.
Have a wonderful weekend. I’ll be back Monday with Mary Palmer and her new book TIME WILL TELL. Until then…