So a lot of writers get rejections that say, “Show, don’t tell.”
And then they are left wondering, what does that even mean?
And then everyone uses the Chekov quote, “Don’t tell me the moon is shining. Show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
That’s because writers and editors like to quote other writers and editors because it makes us sound:
- Pretentious. Cough. I mean intelligent!
- Like we know what we’re doing.
Showing is what it sounds like. You are showing what’s happening in the scene or with the character.
Telling is also what it sounds like. You are blunt and direct and are just stating things. Sometimes you’re stating and summarizing.
Here is a quick example:
Shaun was cranky.
Gabby the dog barked for hours at the dogs trotting by the house that morning and after a quick pause for a drink from her red water bowl in the kitchen, she’d pranced back to the living room sliding glass door and started again.
Shaun tensed. He slammed his fist against his desk and roared, “Will you just shut up already?”
So why do you want to show more and tell less?
It’s more community oriented.
It gives the reader the truth about the character by illustrating it on the page rather than laying it down like an edict.
If I tell you, Carrie is a timid person, then you’re like okay. Whatever.
But if I show you a scene where Carrie steps outside and starts crying because the grass is long and things could be hiding in it and she starts sweating and shaking because she’s so afraid of the grass? You’re going to probably have a better understanding of how timid a person Carrie actually is.
Yeah, showing takes more words, but writers are word magistrates. We are dealers in the sentence and the language. Words are our friends.
The other reason is that telling makes things dull.
It’s hard to be suspenseful when you just say everything all bluntly. When you tell, you are blunt. When you show? You are laying out little truths that compel the reader to turn the page and read on. You are giving the pieces of a meal, one bite at a time, rather than shoving a four-course dinner down their throat and making them gag.
It’s the difference between reading the episode recap for Wanda Vision and actually watching the show.
Telling kills immediacy.
Just like distancing language, telling puts a wall up between the reader and the experience of the characters.
If I write, Carrie heard the bomb explode, it’s not as gripping. You are distanced from the experience.
Compare that to if I write,
The bang rippled through the air. The cops’ radios all began squawking with orders and directives as the cops turned as one towards the source of the sound and the smoke…the smoke billowed out and up. Carrie turned with them. The plastic, the soot, the burning on her tongue made it hard to swallow.
WRITING TIP OF THE POD
Show more. Tell less.
DOG TIP FOR LIFE
Show it as best as you can for all the good treats.
Our random thoughts this week were about:
A stray dog at Dollar General stealing a purple unicorn. He’s okay and found his forever home! Yay! Link from People.
A woman who was allegedly stuck in Florida tunnels and a drain for three weeks. She’s okay! Link from the Miami Herald.
How Shaun announced at the Covid vaccine place that Carrie doesn’t bleed. He’s okay, too. Link from our life.
The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License.
Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song? It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.
And we have a new podcast, LOVING THE STRANGE, which we stream live on Carrie’s Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn on Fridays. Her Facebook and Twitter handles are all carriejonesbooks or carriejonesbook.
Here’s the link. This week’s podcast is all about strange habits.
HEAR MY BOOK BABY (AND MORE) ON PATREON
On one of my Patreon sites I read and print chapters of unpublished YA novels. THE LAST GODS and SAINT and now ALMOST DEAD. This is a monthly membership site (Hear the book chapters – $1/month, read them $3-month, plus goodies!). Sometimes I send people art! Art is fun.
On this, my second site, WRITE BETTER NOW, you can do a one-time purchase of a writing class or get two of my books in eBook form or just support our podcast or the dogs. It’s all part of the WRITING CLASS OF AWESOME.
It’s a super fun place to hang out, learn, read, and see my weirdness in its true form.
And I’m starting up a brand new, adult paranormal set at a Maine campground. You can read the first chapter here.