D. F. Krieger

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Writer Wednesday: Show & Tell

Yes, today we are going to talk about that dreadful topic: Showing versus Telling. Oooh, aahhh--Ack! I do believe this is one of the hardest subjects to understand, spot, and tackle. Let's start with something easy first, shall we?

He closed the door firmly.

Now, this is where I would leave my authors a comment that looks something like: "ly" words are often a sign of telling. Try rephrasing and replacing please. Here's an example of what could be done:

With a firm grip on the handle, he shut the door and ended the conversation.

Yay word count! Yay visuals. Because now we know he's probably angry or upset and we know he's walking away from a dispute of some sort. Yeah, yeah, I know we would have already gotten that from the surrounding paragraphs, but isn't this more fun? And doesn't it underline his emotions so well? (Nod and smile, people!)

Let's try another one. Mannerisms (those things that aren't dialogue tags but action after or during dialogue) are often riddled with telling in many manuscripts. I'll throw one at you I see a lot!

She blushed.

*Yawn*  Boring! Now we know our heroine, or at least the female being discussed, has a Pikachu effect going on (and I just proved to my 6 year old that I can make Pokemon references in my posts!). Moving on--There are two ways to change the above. If we are in the heroine's POV then we need to be sure we avoid head-hopping so:

Her face heated, her cheeks prickling as she blushed over his compliment.

If we are in the perspective of someone else, say the hero, it would look different. Because he can't feel the sensation of the blush, it would be physically described.

Redness crept along her cheek bones as she began to blush over his compliment.

One way to spot telling is to look at your actions. Do you merely state what the person is doing without any emotion? Did you use "ly". Could you give us more feed via sensations? Using the senses is a wonderful way to combat telling.

The man who stole her person began to run away. "Oh no you don't!" Carina ran after the fleeing criminal. She wasn't going to let him get away with stealing her favorite purse.

versus

The man who stole her purse took one look at her, sneered, and fled down the alley way. "Oh no you don't!" Carina narrowed her eyes and sprinted after him. Her heart pounded in her chest and a lump formed in her throat as she drew in each ragged breath. Her track days were certainly long behind her, but she wasn't about to let this petty thief get away with her purse. That was her favorite one!

See the difference? You get so much more swept up in the story when you can identify with the emotions and sensations. Thus is the art of showing versus telling. Questions? Comments? ~ D. F. Krieger

3 comments:

Angelina Rain said...

You touched on my biggest problem. I can always spot when another author is telling instead of showing, but I'm blind to it in my own work. I have a tendency to tell, thinking to myself that I'll fix it before I send it out, but then I forget all about it.

tamylee said...

Thank you so much. I think for most authors, the show it vs tell it is our biggest trouble area. Your explanations are clear and easy to understand.

Faberge Nostromo said...

Thanks - neatly explained... and now I hate what my wip! Aaaaaaaaghhhhh.
:-)