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Show, Tell, Skip, or Simplify : Conversation question • Writing Forum | WritersDigest.com

Show, Tell, Skip, or Simplify

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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Show, Tell, Skip, or Simplify

Postby DrG2 » Tue Jul 21, 2015 12:14 am

I've been in many discussions on many writers' sites about show vs. tell. Instead of simply slugging it out between those two options, I'd like to suggest there are other options (skip, or simplify).

I've recently reviewed a chapter (not WD) where the author had some wonderful showing, and some dreadful telling.

When he "told", it seemed everything had an adverb or adjective, and they weren't weak qualifiers, they were things like ominous or foreboding, etc.

It struck me that, for this author, he seldom wrote simple text. A guy slammed a door, but he "yanked it closed with a foreboding slam." Rather than just: He slammed the door.

Rather than "showing" that foreboding, I suggest that simplifying the sentence is often the way to go.

Not everything can be "special".

Except you guys, you're all special. ;)

I have some examples:

Telling: Jesus got totally emotional and like expressed himself awkwardly, making the apostles kinda freaked out when he sobbed and stuff, over some dead guy.

Showing: Lazarus's sisters told Jesus of their brother's death, and Jesus fell to his knees, clutching his head in his hands, bitter tears running down his cheeks.

Skipping:

Simplifying: Jesus wept.

In this example, skipping probably wouldn't be a viable alternative.

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Re: Show, Tell, Skip, or Simplify

Postby roda havet » Tue Jul 21, 2015 6:57 am

Thanks DrG2 I found this post to be helpful. I have made a post on here not long ago and PLS along with you said I was telling a lot not showing. Then after I read over my work several times (about 4 or 6 maybe) I started seeing what the two of you where saying. And now that I see these examples it helps me to see where I really went wrong. So thank you for sharing this. :)
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Re: Show, Tell, Skip, or Simplify

Postby vrabinec » Tue Jul 28, 2015 10:18 pm

This is where the art comes in. A writer has to have a feel for which way he wants to pull the reader. The sensational will, as you say, become mundane if EVERYTHING is sensational. pick your fights well. Set the reader up with journalistic info before you hit him with the spectacular poetic flourish.

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Re: Show, Tell, Skip, or Simplify

Postby Laycrew » Wed Jul 29, 2015 12:24 am


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Re: Show, Tell, Skip, or Simplify

Postby roda havet » Wed Jul 29, 2015 8:22 am

Thanks Laycrew for the encouraging advice maybe now I get out of my slump I seem to be in. I have put my novel on hold about about 2 weeks of so and picked up a book and started reading instead. But after what you said and the book I'm reading maybe I'll jump right back in and be able to work out all the kinks my novel has. :)
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Re: Show, Tell, Skip, or Simplify

Postby pls » Wed Jul 29, 2015 11:07 am

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Re: Show, Tell, Skip, or Simplify

Postby roda havet » Wed Jul 29, 2015 1:54 pm

PLS thank you for the encouraging words. I really just got discourage with myself and decided to take a break to read a book. The book I'm reading now is called "Darkness Brutal" (The Dark Cycle Book 1) by Rachel A. Marks. She does a lot of showing which seems to be
helping me understand what I need to change in my novel plus it's a really good book so far. So I will continue to read the book and try to use what I learn from it to write mine. :)
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Re: Show, Tell, Skip, or Simplify

Postby pls » Wed Jul 29, 2015 5:05 pm

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Re: Show, Tell, Skip, or Simplify

Postby roda havet » Wed Jul 29, 2015 5:15 pm

Yeah, I found it to be a good example and book. :)
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Re: Show, Tell, Skip, or Simplify

Postby James A. Ritchie » Thu Jul 30, 2015 2:51 pm

Skip, or simplify, are certainly opinions, but there's a third option too many overlook, or simply can't do. This option is write tell well enough that it isn't boring, that readers don't even realize it is tell.

That's no reason at all for tell to be bland and boring, except in those rare instances where it's supposed to be bland and boring, such as in police reports, or scientific papers. Other than this, tell should be just as vibrant, just as exciting, just as lively, as show. It usually isn't tell that readers complain about, it's bland, boring writing. Most readers don't even realize something is tell. Or show, for that matter. They only recognize boring.

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