Log in

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?
Legs MacGuffin: sanzorhosyn_du on August 25th, 2005 04:03 am (UTC)
I don't think that "show, not tell" is really about level of detail. It's much more about how your narration presents information. For example, a "tell" approach would be to say "Joe was surprised," whereas a "show" approach would be more along the lines of "Joe's eyes widened and he felt his jaw drop open," or something to that effect. "Surprise" is an abstract, whereas the physical manifestations of a person's surprise are concrete and observable.

I think the idea behind "show, not tell" is to draw the reader into your story as an active participant. When you tell, rather than show, there is no ambiguity in what's going on; it's a straight information dump that doesn't give the reader any opportunity for interpretation or for really being inside the story.