It is time for Post #3 of “No Edit / No Read” (Showing vs. Telling). (*crowd roars*)
Ahh, yes. You may now release your bated breath into the atmosphere, allowing it to surround you and lift you up into the writing Zen zone.
Sometimes you need the Zen, because the shenanigans of “Showing” vs. “Telling” in your fiction writing is not always easy.
The old adage, ‘show, don’t tell’ can be not only a little confusing – but hearing the term bandied about without a clear explanation can mutate us into grizzly bears at a monkey rodeo.
One of the simplest ways to clarify what these wise writers, editors, or teachers mean by show vs. tell is through example.
If I have a character, I’ll call her Cindy, and I want to let you know what she is like, so you can create a clear mental vision of her when she is mentioned. I could tell you what to think, like this:
“Cindy was very tall and tired, with a tic in her right eye.”
OR – Give you enough information so the character comes to life more vividly, like this:
“Cindy dragged herself along behind Michael, yawning sporadically every few steps. Looking down at the top of his bald head as it bobbed and weaved through the store, only made things worse. She pressed her fingertips to her right eye to calm the nerve that acted up whenever she’d had enough.”
You can also add metaphors and similes to give readers a better vision of what the character is like this:
Instead of: “Cindy was very tall and tired, with a tic in her right eye.”
Try a simile & metaphor double whammy:
“Cindy felt like a giraffe on a treadmill with no stop button. Her right eye fought an imaginary battle with an incessant fly.”
“By the end of the day, Cindy’s neck was like a knotted tree branch from the strain of looking down into the faces of her friends. Her face drooped from the effort – and the corner of her right eye danced to an inaudible beat.”
So, showing is giving the reader a description without ever telling them what you want them to envision. You do everything but actually write the words, she’s tall, she’s tired, or she has a tic. Notice that showing also takes a lot more words – which means more work and imagination on the part of the writer.
Will you want to dig down and perform the work of showing every single time? Probably not. Your book would become far too large for every detail and possibly annoying, littered with so much prattle, when it isn’t always necessary.
You can try to mix things up with a blend or hybrid of showing and telling. I don’t think telling is always the wrong way to go depending on the importance of the character, scene, or object, etc. Sometimes you just need a quick flash, like:
“A fat hippy ran by!” – No need to describe his long hair, puka shell necklace, and dope glazed eyes. 😉
As the writer, you can decide when it is necessary for the reader to have a clearer understanding/vision in their head. You could also make a choice to alternate between showing and telling throughout your book – as you do with creating balance with sentence lengths.
I hope this explanation his helpful to you in some way!
Show me your showing superpowers in a comment below ❤
Until next time, WRITE ON!