D. F. Krieger

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Show, Not Tell

Those words drove me insane when I first started hearing them. What did it mean? How could I change what I was doing? I tried to understand, but the concept completely eluded me. I didn't get lucky enough to find many examples online that were helpful. All I got over and over was, "show us what is going on". Gerblarble!

Then I got lucky. A friend of mine, who is already published, looked over the first page of one of my WIP's. What I got back was a mess of colors, and yet everything finally clicked. I can never express to her how grateful I am that she showed me (not told me) how to fix it. One page will make a lifetime of difference in my writing.

To save everyone from going through the frustration I have, I'm going to show you a couple of examples of show versus tell.

     Tell: Her ship pulled into the port.
     Show: Her ship shuddered and wobbled while it pulled into the pitiful excuse for a planet-side port.

See the imagery now? Can you feel the ship vibrating around you? Can you imagine the run-down looking buildings and docks that make up the port? 

I'll give you another example.
    Tell: People screaming, buildings burning, dead would-be warriors scattered across the streets-
    Show: The human’s screams seemed to echo in the screen of smoke. The acrid smell of smoldering thatch and burning wood assaulted the black dragon’s nostrils. He eyed a couple of corpses, the remains of would-be warriors that lay scattered across the street-

Believe it or not, it's the same thing in both the show and tell sentences. If you show us though, it gives a richer flavor and lets people transport to the moment. I hope others found this helpful in their endeavor to learn. 
I'd also like to give a shout-out to Rachel Firasek! Check out her website. Her awesome book, Piper's Fury, will be coming out soon! ~ D. F. Krieger


Angelina Rain said...

D.F., I could so relate. When I first started writing, I saw that advice everywhere but could never find any examples. Then finally, I saw an example on line that explained it all. Showing, you build an image without actually telling us what the character is thinking or feeling. They provided an example very similar to this:

Tell: She was scared.

Show: A trickle of icy fear raced down her spine and sweat beads formed on her forehead.

In the showing, you don’t have to say that the character was scared, as it is obvious.

D. F. Krieger said...

Hey Angelina,
Thanks for some more great examples and the extra explanation!

Tara said...

It took a long time for that "rule" to click for me as well. It was a very bright bulb when it finally lit. ;)