Showing vs. Telling

Showing vs. Telling

A Lesson by Miss Coral

So, you've always heard "Show, don't tell", right? Well I have some thoughts on that as well.


I grew up writing. I started my first book at 8. It was ridiculous, and stupid, and I still love it. :)
Anyways, the point is, that for years I heard the same phrases over and over and over again. The most prominent one was "Show, don't tell." Now, I'm assuming you've heard this, and it's been explained to you. If it has, feel free to skip the next two paragraphs. :)

These are two types of description. Telling is very blunt- you tell the reader what to see instead of allowing them to envision it themselves. It's something like this: "I walked into the barn,which was red. It was old. It was broken down." Sometimes, telling can almost sound like a blog or recollection of what happened. Oftentimes, telling distances the reader- it reminds them that they AREN'T there, up in space fighting striped aliens wielding fish with laser-eyes as weapons. It reminds them that this is happened to someone else, or that it never actually happened at all. And generally, that isn't very good.
Showing is generally more flowery, in a whole lot ways. At least, that's how it turns out a lot of the time for a lot of people. You can be concise, while still showing though. Showing can be something like this: "The door squeaked as I ducked my head into the barn. A large flake of old red paint fell to the ground as rusted hinges groaned again in disapproval of this treatment."
(Okay, just to say it now, most of my examples in here are probably going to be godawful. This is all typed straight in here, as I've said before. Okay, back to the point.)
Showing generally allows the reader to follow actions while reading the description. You hint at descriptions, rather than telling them. Description should be included with actions, or it will bore the reader. Everything should further the story in some way.(I'm terrible at doing that. What a hypocrite.)

Telling is what they do in history books. 
Showing is what you're reading when you find yourself completely lost in a book. It's what lets people experience things that they're reading.

Now, here's the dilemma. This is drilled into us again and again as writers. I learned how to show (kind of) at a younger age. And now, the problem is, that I tend to over-show. Sometimes, it's just better to simply state something and get it over with. You have to make sure that you don't go overboard with it. It's easy to get wrapped up in description. So, my point is that it shouldn't be "Show, don't tell". It should be more along the lines of, "Learn how to perfectly weigh out your showing and telling so that your style is readable and allows the reader to interact with your story as they would prefer to". But, that's a little long. 
Something that I try to remember while I'm writing and/or editing is this quote: 

I try to leave out the parts that people skip.  ~Elmore Leonard

Thanks for reading!

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Posted 2 Years Ago

An interesting post. I still find myself confused with how to show and not tell. It would seem to me, that regardless how much a poet tries, there is always going to telling and showing together.

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Posted 2 Years Ago

I guess Sir Doyle's Dr. Watson is always over-showing things. :)

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Posted 2 Years Ago

That is what I have needed to know, I suppose, it is way the reader immerses themselves in the story. I also ahve find none weak adverbs, so I will I suppose have to wait for information to be presented.

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Posted 6 Years Ago

That was pretty helpful. in my stories i tell more than i show. now that will help me.

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Posted 7 Years Ago

This was very in formative. Thanks
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Added on December 10, 2010
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Miss Coral
Miss Coral

Prague, Bohemia, Czech Republic

18 year old girl, third culture kid. I like writing and swing music. Probably not super active.