Friday, October 26, 2007
Showing vs. Telling
Imagine a blank movie screen in front of you. A voice says, "The man is angry." That's telling. And lazy. And you're not involved. The screen is still sort of blank.
So how does a novelist "show" anger? We use words, not pictures on a screen.
Aha! Exactly! We paint with words. Show the man is angry by describing him in more detail. Are his fists clenched? Is his face tight? Eyebrows drawn together? What are the nonverbal clues?
By painting a word picture, using strong verbs, your reader is engaged in the scene. They "see" the man is angry for themselves. You don't have to tell them.
Telling isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's just something you don't want to do a lot of.
When I'm reading a book, I'm much happier as a participant--smack in the middle of a scene and feeling its power. I'm seeing what's going on rather than being told what's going on. I'm also able to feel more. Make sense?
Showing isn't easy, but I have to say, it is more fun. I try and go through and find any place in my "movie" that has a voiceover. That's a spot where I'm telling something maybe I could be showing.
And then, I get out my word paints.
It's all better with friends.