Saturday, April 4, 2015

Don't Tell, Show

(mwahhahaha velcome to my secret lair of the internet vhere I vill attempt to complete zee A-to-Z Challenge vith my very own zeme: VITING.) I have no idea what just happened, so don't ask. Weird things happen with Anne Marie early in the morning.

This has been my greatest struggle as a writer. What? Being weird?

No, stupid, keep up. Telling and not showing. I mean showing not telling.

I hated hated hated HATED this rule so so so MUCH. I did not understand how one simply cannot tell. I have so much to tell! How could I just show it?! I'm a writer, not an artist for goodness sake.

When I took a creative writing class freshman year (best. class. ever.), this was something we definitely touched on. But I needed a blueprint, a handout, some sort of exact instruction! Because I did not understand why telling got such a bad rap.

I just love looking back at old writing and seeing how much I've grown. Even from reading things I've written less than a year ago, I can tell how much I learned.

Showing not telling was something that I learned gradually. There wasn't a formula I applied to suddenly become incredible at it (which I'm still quite far from. Being incredible at it, that is).

Since I've learned the art, I purpose that we rephrase "show don't tell" to "show over tell".

It's okay to tell. In her book This Is Not A Writing Manual, Kerri Majors discusses how a teacher once told her that it's perfectly okay to tell, as long as your telling is working. Some writers are masterful at telling. Like Kerri, my telling does not always work. It usually doesn't. My showing is more captivating and fills out the story much better.

Show over tell is the difference between telling someone about your best friend and actually introducing them to your best friend. While both are perfectly lovely, the later is the more desirable.

I think this quote sums it up quite nicely:

https://writerswrite1.wordpress.com/2013/04/29/quotable-anton-chekhov/
If showing over telling is something that you're struggling with, I encourage you to spend more time with your characters. Define them more, or "flesh them out". Show them squinting in the sun rather than saying it was sunny, show them sweating and panting rather than saying it's hot, show them holding back tears rather than saying that their hearts are breaking.

On another brief note, thank you all so much for reading my blog and for the kind comments! You all make me smile. Have a blessed Easter and I'll see y'all next week!

22 comments:

  1. I love that example. When I started writing I struggled with this but like you, I've gotten better at this. Now I know when I'm telling but not always how to fix it.

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    1. Thank you so much, Susan! I'm the exact same way...=)

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  2. What a great post. Very astute and well done. It shows that you are an excellent student of your craft. I can't wait to read your work.

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  3. I struggled with this as well, it's definitely a talent, something we can continue working on and improving. And I *love* that quote you shared too!

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  4. Oh--and I've tried following your blog and it keeps telling me it can't process my request! :/

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    1. Thanks, Courtney! It's for sure something that I feel we can always improve on. And thank you for attempting to follow and letting me know, it should be fixed!

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  5. Anton makes me feel insecure. Isn't that just amazing?

    Excellent way to explain it. I'll keep that in mind!

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  6. Showing vs. Telling is something I've struggled with, (I think most writers do, to be honest) but this was really helpful! You're the best, Annie!

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    1. Very true, Anna. Aww, thanks girl, you're the best-er!

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  7. Very sound advice. Happy Easter to you as well! Show vs. Tell gets especially tricky when you're writing short fiction as opposed to novels. In short fiction, when you choose to show and when you choose to tell are often strongly linked to the pacing of the story and how important an individual detail is (especially with flash fiction). My usual trick is to show at least two things at once so as to convey two "tells" worth of information in one more elegant, equi-length "show." This whole idea takes a ton of practice and plenty of editing.

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  8. Tweet worthy - after I write this comment that's what I'm going to do.

    This is a brilliant post - everyone should read it. First because you make an excellent point. Then, because you give examples. All without saying more than needs to be said. High five.

    This piece was concise and captivating and informative. WOW! :) :) Thanks!

    Happy Easter, to you and yours!

    Sent with smiles, Jenny, Pearson Report
    2015 A to Z Challenge Ambassador
    @PearsonReport

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    1. I've been trying to add myself as a Follower (to GFC) but it keeps saying "try later"… not sure what's up but I wanted to let you know I intend to follow you and your blog!

      I'll "try again" later. :) :)

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    2. Jenny, your comment made my day! Thank you for taking the time, and for the big smile you put on my face! The follower problem should be now fixed, thanks again!

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  9. Awesome post! I still fall into the trap of telling from time to time, which is why I love beta readers because they'll leave me little comments like "Tell me how she feels..." and other things like that. Every time I think, "Silly me. Duh!"

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    1. Beta readers are the solution to life's biggest problems. Thank you so much, Chrys!

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  10. Yes, showing over telling. Great wording. The editor Cheryl Klein makes a point that J. K. Rowling very successfully showed and THEN told. A little more telling is appropriate for certain narrative voices, but it's like alcohol--you have to use it with discretion to really enjoy it.

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  11. Oh, but we are artists! Yes, take the time to really show and not just tell. But sometimes a little telling is okay in suspenseful or quick-paced scenes. But I love "showing" in my writing!!! I pretend it's a writing exercise and go back and edit that way:)

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