Show Vs Tell (in my experience)

Okay, first off is the concept of Show vs. Tell.  I know a lot of newer writers like to say “show And tell.” But, let’s be real, this isn’t kindergarten.  You’re not taking your favorite teddy bear to class and telling them about it.  There is a battle of show vs. tell, and show generally wins every time.   Also, you’ve probably gotten a lot of people telling you to Show more in your story.  (Haha, telling you to show.  I crack myself up sometimes… anywho)

So, what exactly is Showing?  Showing is making a reader see a character’s actions, and through those actions, inevitably, see and understand them.  The best way to show this is to give you examples.

Mindy loved dogs.

This sentence is rather bland, and it is telling your reader how the character feels. Now, let’s change it up a bit and show your reader how the character feels.

 As the dog jumped onto Mindy’s legs, she bellowed a laugh before rubbing the dog’s ears.

See how much better that is?  Not only do you know that she likes dogs, you also see the character reacting to a stimulus.  This is the best way for you to no only grab your reader’s attention, but to keep them enthralled in your story.  Readers like to see the action that’s taking place, verses being told a series of likes, dislikes, and description of a character.

Now, I just did an example on how to portray feelings, but what is the best way to show description?  I have noticed while reading, and reviewing, quite a bit of work that many newer writers like to load up the narrative with descriptions, possibly thinking that this is showing.  I’ll give an example of what I mean.

Lindsey wore a red cap, black t-shirt, and some blue jeans.  Her eyes were blue and she had brunette hair.

This is not only a lot for a reader to take in at once, but if you’ll notice, it’s also a ton of telling.   Telling makes a narration boring if not used correctly.  It also makes writers have a tendency to write a list of descriptors, thinking that they are showing their characters.  I would say that these descriptors are best left on the pieces of scraps that are used to plan the story.  Let’s now show the character.

Adjusting her worn cap, Lindsey gazed into the mirror for a moment longer.  She huffed in aggravation before fixing her eyeliner once more.  At least her unruly brown hair could be tamed with a hat.  Her blue eyes were another matter altogether. 

As you can see, there’s quite a bit more, and I didn’t use all the details from before.   Unless the character is going to prom, or is in a novel where normal clothes aren’t worn, the details of their clothing isn’t really needed.  I’ll do another post on Selecting Details, but basically, only write what carries your narrative along.  You’ll notice that I also wrote a little bit of telling at the end, but it is layered over with showing.  This is the only thing that will make telling acceptable. You have to earn one sentence of telling through many of showing.

Hopefully this has helped you quite a bit as far as the concept goes.  If you have any questions, feel free to ask and I’ll answer as soon as I can.


2 thoughts on “Show Vs Tell (in my experience)

  1. And it makes ones narrative so much more interesting to write as well as to read.

    It was raining. Oh, really. I love to describing how the rain nails the surface of a river or how lightning dances and flickers amongst the clouds.

    Good advice. Thank you. 🙂

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