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Showing vs. Telling : Conversation question • Writing Forum | WritersDigest.com

Showing vs. Telling

Every month in Writer's Digest's InkWell section, we pose a question related to the writing life. Tell us your thoughts.
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DrG2
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Showing vs. Telling

Postby DrG2 » Tue Aug 26, 2014 10:45 pm

Most of us have been told that writers should show, not tell. I'd like this topic to discuss WHAT telling is. Please restrict comments to that issue. We can discuss when, and to what degree, showing is better than telling in a different thread.

There is some disagreement regarding what is "telling". I have appended a few links. But various authors would include the following items. The items with an asterisk are ones I'm not sure about.
------------
Exposition.

Narrative value statements. (Basically whenever a writer names some quality something has.)

*Description that does not include action verbs or is riddled with adjectives

*Use of weak verbs or words littered with adverbs

Filtering.

Telling what a character feels.

Any extensive narrative intrusion.
------
some links:
http://www.wright.edu/~david.wilson/eng ... ing101.pdf
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Show,_don%27t_tell
http://www.sfwriter.com/ow04.htm
http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blo ... -workshops
http://www.writingforward.com/writing-t ... -dont-tell
http://www.dailywritingtips.com/show-dont-tell/
http://users.wirefire.com/tritt/tip1.html
https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/show-don-t-tell
http://thewritepractice.com/show-dont-tell/

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MookyMcD
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Re: Showing vs. Telling

Postby MookyMcD » Wed Aug 27, 2014 12:51 am

It may almost be easier to define in the negative. Communicating information through something other than a character's actions, the occurrence of an event, or dialogue that is not expository? That's basically how I'd define it, anyway.

James A. Ritchie
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Re: Showing vs. Telling

Postby James A. Ritchie » Wed Aug 27, 2014 11:36 am

I think Chekhov said it all. Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.

Here, "tell" is declarative, and "show" means painting a descriptive picture that readers can see.

Emotions are probably easiest. "John was angry" is telling. "John gritted his teeth and slammed his fist into the wall." is showing. Here, "tell" is still declarative, and "Show" is an action.

I'm not sure why so many have a problem with tell versus show. Telling is always declarative. Show is always detailed description, or an action.

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DrG2
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Re: Showing vs. Telling

Postby DrG2 » Wed Aug 27, 2014 7:44 pm


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MookyMcD
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Re: Showing vs. Telling

Postby MookyMcD » Thu Aug 28, 2014 1:05 am


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updog
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Re: Showing vs. Telling

Postby updog » Thu Aug 28, 2014 1:54 am

I think it's important to show rather than tell when it comes to our characters too. If a character is going crazy from loneliness, show them talking to their cat, or a picture on the wall. If your character is a thug, show him pushing people around. In other words, don't tell us a character is good or bad or crazy or beautiful. Let us discover that on our own, by watching her in action.
"Is it weird in here, or is it just me?" ~ Steven Wright



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Re: Showing vs. Telling

Postby Fictional Cowboy » Thu Aug 28, 2014 7:34 am

I'm not an expert, but a good way of showing instead of telling is to involve the senses and using active verbs. The following is my understanding. Correct me if I'm wrong.

Telling

The wedding was finally over. Pastor John felt hot and just wanted to go home but he knew he was expected to eat something or he’d hurt the couple’s feelings.

Showing

The ceremony was finally over. The Romeo groom and Juliet bride were mingling with Hamlet and Titania from A Midsummer Night's Dream.

"Who throws a Shakespearean themed wedding, outdoors, in August?" Pastor John said under his breath, his King Lear costume dripping with sweat. The aluminum crown burned into his forehead. "Ten more minutes, God. Just get me through the next ten minutes. A polite canapé, a sip of punch, a quick congratulations to the happy couple, and I swear I'll strip off and jump in the fountain."

The smell of warm cheese reached Pastor John before he reached the buffet table. He winced as he searched for a morsel that wasn't perspiring more than he was. Not only did he feel like death on a cracker, now he was expected to eat it, too?

EDITED: I mixed up the labels above.
Last edited by Fictional Cowboy on Thu Aug 28, 2014 9:50 am, edited 1 time in total.
~ Cowboy

If you're so inclined, feel free to correct my punctuation. I'm relearning.

DISCLAIMER: My posts are always my opinions, my thoughts and information based on my research. There are exceptions, and no one right way, to do everything.

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updog
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Re: Showing vs. Telling

Postby updog » Thu Aug 28, 2014 9:49 am

I think you have that backwards, Cowboy. The first is telling, the second is showing.
"Is it weird in here, or is it just me?" ~ Steven Wright



Fictional Cowboy
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Re: Showing vs. Telling

Postby Fictional Cowboy » Thu Aug 28, 2014 9:52 am

~ Cowboy

If you're so inclined, feel free to correct my punctuation. I'm relearning.

DISCLAIMER: My posts are always my opinions, my thoughts and information based on my research. There are exceptions, and no one right way, to do everything.

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Re: Showing vs. Telling

Postby James A. Ritchie » Thu Aug 28, 2014 3:26 pm


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