Part 10 of a 10-part series on common mistakes new authors make and how to fix them.
Telling Instead of Showing
Definition = vague writing that explains what's going on instead of painting a word picture so the reader will understand what's happening. Telling could also be called "just the facts ma'am."
1) The wooden bridge was old.
2) The story his mother read scared him.
Both of these examples simply state the facts.
1) The wooden bridge sagged in the middle and creaked when the wind blew through the gorge.
This shows us how the character knew that it was old.
2) As his mother read the story, he clutched his teddy bear. Every time she mentioned the monster, he buried his head in the stuffed animal's soft tummy.
This shows us that he is scared by his actions.
Related Issues =
1) The Urge to Explain = telling the reader something just before or after you've already shown it, just to make sure the reader gets it.
He became excited as he led the race for the first time. His heart beat out a staccato rhythm as he took the lead from the veteran racer. Even though no one could hear him, he shouted, "WaHoo!"
Correction = Drop the telling sentence. The reader will understand that he was excited from the description of the driver's actions.
2) CSI Dialogue – When the dialogue between the characters contains information the characters already know. It is for the sole purpose of informing the reader of something.
Example: Two doctors tell each other what they're doing and why as they go through an autopsy.
Correction = Create a reason for the doctors to explain what they are doing. Maybe a detective or some students are observing the autopsy.
3) Author Intrusion – When the author slips something into the story that none of the characters would know.
Little did he know that his decision to help the woman would open a doorway into a new life.
Only foreshadow something that will happen later in the story through something that the POV character can see, feel, hear, or think.
Why we should show instead of tell =
1) Telling only gives us the basic information.
2) It gives us details that paint a word picture of the scene and the action.
3) Showing makes the readers feel like they're right in the middle of the scene with the characters.
4) Telling uses vague words.
4) Showing uses vivid words that increase the tension and conflict.
Web Site: Write at Home
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