Arpia boards
November 28, 2020, 07:05:09 PM *
Welcome. Please login or register.

Login with username, password and session length
News:
 
   Home   Help Search Login Register  
Pages: [1]   Go Down
  Reply  |  Print  
Author Topic: Show, Don't Tell  (Read 7313 times)
Pace
superzero
Administrator
Planetary Overlord
*

Karma: 2871
Offline Offline

Posts: 1414


Peter "Pace" Craddock


View Profile WWW
« on: January 18, 2007, 02:39:48 PM »
Reply with quoteQuote

Here's something brief from the old BBC Get Writing site and click on the link below for more info. If anyone else finds anything useful, please feel free to post. The BBC site has lots of really useful writing tips.

Show, Don't Tell

There is an old adage in creative writing: show, don?t tell. But what does this statement really mean, and is it always good advice? Most of the time, the answer to the second question is yes. We human beings process the world through our senses first and our minds second. No one has to tell us to ponder what we witness and hear as we go through life. We just do it. So it stands to reason that the success of a piece of creative writing often hinges on its ability to simulate this process for readers. As David Mitchell notes, flashbacks are a prime example of showing instead of telling and are an excellent way of remembering the difference between the two methods.

Read on: Flashbacks


Show don't Tell

If you've been writing long, and probably even if you haven't, you'll have heard the old writing advice, "Show, Don't Tell." This is good advice, to a point, but sometimes you can't avoid telling rather than showing. We'll explore both in this article.

Think about real life for a moment. If someone told you that a lion had escaped from the local zoo and was running loose around your neighbourhood, you'd probably want to find out if it was really true before investing in a high-powered rifle (though you might bring your cat inside and avoid going out yourself, just in case). If they actually took you to see the lion wandering about on the streets, you'd likely take protective precautions right away.

You may wonder what escaped lions have to do with writing.

It's not the lions, but the normal human reaction to being told something versus being shown something (especially if that something is out of the ordinary). In the first case--being told--you may or may not believe the teller, and are likely to want further proof. In the second case--seeing for yourself--you'll probably believe right away (or at least be more easily convinced.

When to Show, Not Tell

Just as in our lion example, readers are more likely to believe something they are shown than something they are told. This is why the saying "Show, Don't Tell" was coined in the first place. So when you really need a reader to believe something right away, it's better to show it to them than to tell them about it. In other words, show the important stuff.

One area where showing rather than telling is especially important is in character development. If you say, "Jack was a cruel man who liked to torment small animals," it might make an impression on a reader. If you write a scene that shows Jack stringing rabbits up by their back legs and leaving them to hang in a cage full of ravenous ferrets, it makes an even bigger impression. No matter how many nice things Jack later does, the reader will not forget "seeing" the man torturing rabbits. Of course, there's no reason you can't both tell and show, but we'll get to that later. For more on the different techniques of character development (and showing rather than telling), see How to Build Character.

Other aspects of writing can be treated the same way. Just remember that whenever something is important, you'll get the reader believing more quickly by showing it to them (and in some cases, showing it to them more than once).

How to Show Without Telling

It?s all very fine to know that you need to show rather than tell, but how do you go about it? In the example of Jack, the rabbits and the ravenous ferrets above, Jack's character was shown to the reader by writing a scene in which Jack does something cruel (for more on scenes, see Part 7 of the Fiction Guide). To show--rather than tell--character, the scene is your most effective tool. Through scenes, we can "hear" the character speak and "see" them act. Descriptive passages can also show things to the reader, but it is easy to fall into telling the reader in long descriptive prose.

But what about something like setting? How can you describe a place without telling? You can't, really, but you can use various tricks to make it seem like the reader is seeing for themself. Most effective in describing setting is to create a full sensory picture, complete with sound and smell and touch. Remember that you have five senses to draw on and use them all to put the reader into the setting. That way, they seem to experience the setting; you haven't told them about it, you've shown it to them. Be careful, though, not to overload the reader with too much detail. Be selective, and choose the detail that will most effectively create the mood or feeling you want to achieve. For more on this, see Writing the Five Senses, and Get Moody: Evoking Atmosphere.

- Source


"Mr Dursley hummed as he picked out his most boring tie for work" = showing

"Mr Dursley was a boring man, who always wore a boring tie to work" = telling.

Showing can involve character actions. The character is doing an action which reveals something about them.

Or they can be reacting to something.

Sometimes it can be in a description. There was a lovely example in a story I reviewed which described the character as wearing their jumper back to front (or it might have been inside out). It revealed a lot about him without the narrator having to tell you.

- Source (YouWriteOn)
Report to moderator   Logged

~ Peter "Pace" Craddock ~

Arpia CEO - Contact
Headquarters, Yubenia, Culuria, Residio
ch00beh
Regular
*

Karma: 256
Offline Offline

Posts: 53


View Profile
« Reply #1 on: January 19, 2007, 07:46:50 AM »
Reply with quoteQuote

I've actually found overloading the senses with detail to create a surreal effect. I'm not sure if my friend did it deliberately or not, but his stories sometimes had intesnse amounts of descriptions (two pages describing a repetitive clock tick), but his language flows really well in an odd kind of way. The way I picture it is like remembering a memory though a mild fog.

Also, my fiction writing teacher pointed out that the authors pay the least amount of attention to the sense of smell. Smell is effective if used well.
Report to moderator   Logged
LiAnNaSu
Confirmed Regular
*

Karma: 66
Offline Offline

Posts: 62


View Profile
« Reply #2 on: February 09, 2007, 03:44:33 AM »
Reply with quoteQuote

Ever read the odessy? Homer takes the show don't tell thing a little too far. You only need to describe eating habits once, then just say "they ate". Same for the repetitiveness of almost everything. See: "bronze tipped spear", "well-constructed house"(not beautiful, but sturdy), etc. I'm getting sick of it, but I have to read it for school.
Report to moderator   Logged
Phil
Mushroom
Administrator
Solar Architect
*

Karma: 68457
Offline Offline

Posts: 8783


Brain!


View Profile WWW
« Reply #3 on: February 09, 2007, 03:49:17 PM »
Reply with quoteQuote

HA!


unlucky you :D
Report to moderator   Logged

Pip the bromptonist.
LiAnNaSu
Confirmed Regular
*

Karma: 66
Offline Offline

Posts: 62


View Profile
« Reply #4 on: February 15, 2007, 02:59:45 AM »
Reply with quoteQuote

I'm finished it (finally). Its a pain.  Don't read it unless you have to unlessed its abriged.
Report to moderator   Logged
ch00beh
Regular
*

Karma: 256
Offline Offline

Posts: 53


View Profile
« Reply #5 on: February 15, 2007, 03:53:53 AM »
Reply with quoteQuote

The thing you have to remember about the Odyssey and various other tales is that they were sung by a bard, not read. You needed the repetition so that people knew who was who and what was what. With reading, you can just go back a few lines to refresh your memory, but with speech you only get things once.
Report to moderator   Logged
Phil
Mushroom
Administrator
Solar Architect
*

Karma: 68457
Offline Offline

Posts: 8783


Brain!


View Profile WWW
« Reply #6 on: February 15, 2007, 03:41:29 PM »
Reply with quoteQuote

thanks for warning me about that :D
Report to moderator   Logged

Pip the bromptonist.
LiAnNaSu
Confirmed Regular
*

Karma: 66
Offline Offline

Posts: 62


View Profile
« Reply #7 on: February 18, 2007, 03:25:05 AM »
Reply with quoteQuote

I didn't think of it being sung by a bard. However, there are song lyrics in it.
Report to moderator   Logged
ch00beh
Regular
*

Karma: 256
Offline Offline

Posts: 53


View Profile
« Reply #8 on: February 18, 2007, 03:35:12 AM »
Reply with quoteQuote

well, it is a poem. :P And poems were meant to be recited, that's why they have a certain cadence to them.
Report to moderator   Logged
Phil
Mushroom
Administrator
Solar Architect
*

Karma: 68457
Offline Offline

Posts: 8783


Brain!


View Profile WWW
« Reply #9 on: February 18, 2007, 09:38:05 AM »
Reply with quoteQuote

Grin
Report to moderator   Logged

Pip the bromptonist.
Pages: [1]   Go Up
  Reply  |  Print  
 
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.16 | SMF © 2011, Simple Machines Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!