Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Show vs. Tell, Part 2

Several people who read my earlier post on this subject have asked for examples of showing and telling to see the difference--no pun intended. I'm happy to oblige.

Telling: Two happy dogs are running down the street.

Showing: Feet not touching terra firma, smiling faces turned to the sun, a blur of black and white fur tore past my eyes.

Showing: She took the child by the hand as they stepped of the curb.

Telling: She was a good mother.

Telling: He fidgeted.

Showing: Fingers beating on the countertop, punctuated by kicking feet, his gaze travelled between the door and the clock on the wall.

With showing, the picture is painted by you on a movie screen, action occurs, and the reader gets to draw their own conclusions. There are no voiceovers instructing the reader. They see it. Obviously, you hope they draw the conclusions and see the qualities you're going for. It's harder work than just telling, but more often than not, the result is worth it.

Bear in mind however, that just as all telling can be bland and non-interactive, all showing can be tedious. Pick and choose which method is going to propel your story forward. More often than not, showing will be the best option simply because it involves your reader more.

It's all better with friends.

1 comment:

  1. Peg,
    Thanks for the practical reminders of craft. I love the photo of the two dogs! Talk about a happy day :-)

    I long for the day when I intuitively lean toward showing. Of course, telling does have advantages when you need to skip ahead quickly past mundane activity. Thanks for pointing out that both are needed.