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18 August 2005 @ 01:51 pm
Discussion: Show, Not Tell  
Today's discussion features my own personal Achilles Heel. I will always struggle with the "Show, Not Tell" gremlin, partly because I have never quite understood the concept.

What I've read counsels toward being more descriptive, to be concrete rather than abstract. Rather than say the dog is brown, the advice says to say the dog is a shabby, mangy brown, the color of mud dried under a blazing summer sun.

My problem? I detest writing that goes into *that* much detail! It's one of the reasons I've never read Tolkein's work.

So, folks, rather than a long-winded entry from me today for the discussion topic, I'm turning it over for discussion. What's the best advice for writers who dread hearing "Show, Not Tell" in an editor's rejection letter?
Yvonneymp on August 19th, 2005 08:48 am (UTC)
I'm a big fan of judicious showing, and I abhor telling. While on site one of the guys lent me a book that was entirely told rather than shown, and it drove me up the wall. To parahrase:

'She entered the church. There was a hall down the centre lined by rows of pews, and at the end was a nave. The nave was square and held an altar.'

The physical descriptions were worse - it was all, 'the black-haired coroner' and 'her heart-shaped face' and 'the hulking Welshman'.

I've never had TOO much telling problems, but I do have a few. I try to picture the scene in my head and then pick out odd details that might not be.. usual, and comment on those. On how the light falls, or the folds in the tablecloth, or the flowers on the ledge by the window.

I am with Emma though - I like to learn along the way. I don't need an exposition clump at the beginning to give away all the details - boring!