Show, Don't Tell
|"Nice, Tom, but try a little more showing and a little less telling".|
When I'm reading a story, I often lose interest if the author presents facts that seems to stop the flow of the story. You can tell me that a person is happy or sad, short or tall, bald or blessed with a full head of blazing red hair-- but if those descriptions slow the story or stop the mood you've engaged me in - then you're telling me something instead of showing me.
Here's an example.
I could describe a cluttered attic by listing all its contents. Or I could invite you (the reader) to "step into" the attic as I (a character in the story) stumble over boxes, catch my sweater on an old hanger, step on a paper bag with half of a discarded banana inside, etc. The second description involves action. It moves the paragraph along, which moves the page, which moves the chapter and so on, and so on.
Using some of the five senses can help describe the scene as well. I'll bet that long-neglected banana smells awful. And, perhaps the character can walk into a large, dust covered cobweb... with her mouth slightly open. That would surely provoke a funny response and is more immediate than simply writing that there were cobwebs hanging everywhere.
There are countless books on writing that discuss show, don't tell, as well as many blogs and articles on the internet that do the same. It's always a good idea to check out a few for good examples of how to sharpen our writing skills. And, there is a good reason why show, don't tell appears on many lists of writing advice. It helps keep stories fresh and moving.
Labels: by Robin