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Rumple_deWriter
Posted: Tuesday, August 11, 2015 4:21:25 AM

Rank: Story Moderator
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Joined: 8/24/2011
Posts: 451
Location: lost in the ozone west of Apache Junction
A friend asked me about 'show vs tell'. Instead of taking up band width with my bloviation, here are a few thoughts on the subject by, Grammar Girl. Just one cautionary note: In my opinion, when it comes to writing commercial fiction, there is no 'right or wrong' only 'effective and less effective'. Therefore, approach with caution any advice that includes words such as "can't." RdW

glasses8


===


What Does “Show, Don’t Tell” Mean?

By Mignon Fogarty,
Grammar Girl

Good writing tends to draw an image in the reader’s mind instead of just telling the reader what to think or believe.
Here’s a sentence that tells:
Mr. Bobweave was a fat, ungrateful old man.
That gets the information across, but it’s boring. It simply tells the reader the basics about Mr. Bobweave.
Here’s a way to create an image of Mr. Bobweave in the reader’s mind:
Mr. Bobweave heaved himself out of the chair. As his feet spread under his apple-like frame and his arthritic knees popped and cracked in objection, he pounded the floor with his cane while cursing that dreadful girl who was late again with his coffee.
In the second example, I didn’t tell you Mr. Bobweave is fat. I showed it by writing that his feet spread and describing his apple-like frame. I didn’t tell you Mr. Bobweave is old. I showed it by mentioning his arthritic knees, his cane, and that he has a girl who tends to him. I didn’t tell you he is ungrateful, but with the impatience of a pounding cane and his disdain for his caregiver, I got you thinking that he may not be a very nice man.

Next: Should you ever "Tell, instead of Showing"?

You may have noticed that it takes many more words to show rather than tell. A story that is filled with such detailed descriptions could become tiresome, so just as you mix long sentences with short sentences to create variety and keep your readers interested, it’s often wise to mix sections that show with sections that tell to keep your story moving.
Use Metaphors and Similes to Show Your Ideas
It’s often wise to mix sections that show with sections that tell.
Most of the descriptions I used in the last example were literal, but metaphors and similes also provide an interesting way to create an image for the reader. For example, if you want to say someone is huge and slow, you could use a simile about an elephant. You could say he saunters like an elephant, methodically forcing his path to a crowded watering hole.
If your protagonist is stealthy, you could use a simile about a falling leaf: She landed under the window like a leaf that had fallen from a tree.



Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwords.[/ - ROBERT HEINLEIN

Schemers Scheme -- young women talking about young men

OF WAR, AND PEACE, AND MARY BETH: my contest winner, honest

For Whom the Good Tolls an 'RR' and it's short, no kidding

Rumple_deWriter
Posted: Thursday, August 27, 2015 2:54:05 PM

Rank: Story Moderator
Moderator

Joined: 8/24/2011
Posts: 451
Location: lost in the ozone west of Apache Junction
Here's an extreme example of using show instead of tell.

Faced with a scene in which a character falls down some stairs, the quickest way to describe the action is by 'telling' the reader, "He fell down the stairs."

That's not what the incomparable, P.G. Wodehouse decided to do. Instead of simply 'telling' the reader what happened, he 'showed' the incident.
"
With stealthy steps he crept to the head of the stairs and descended. One uses the verb “descend” advisedly, for what is required is some word suggesting instantaneous activity. But Baxter’s progress from the second floor to the first, there was nothing halting or hesitating. He, so to speak, did it now.

Planting his foot firmly on a golf ball which the Honorable Freddie Fleetwood who had been practicing putting in the corridor before retiring to bed had left in his casual fashion just where the stairs began, he took the entire staircase in one majestic vaulting sweep.

There were eleven stairs in all separating his landing from the landing below, and the only ones he hit were the third and tenth. He came to rest with a squattering thunk on the lower landing, and for a moment or two the fever of the chase left him."

P.G. Wodehouse “Leave It To Psmith”

Granted, that took more words, in fact, a lot more words, and following that example all the time would make "War and Peace" resemble a condensed novella next to your epic tome. Still, it was fun.

glasses8


Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwords.[/ - ROBERT HEINLEIN

Schemers Scheme -- young women talking about young men

OF WAR, AND PEACE, AND MARY BETH: my contest winner, honest

For Whom the Good Tolls an 'RR' and it's short, no kidding

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