I am very excited about today’s guest blogger. Since recently signing with Clean Teen Publishing, it has been an absolute delight getting to know my new family, and so, I am introducing one of those wonderfully supportive and talented authors, Jennifer Anne Davis. She is sharing fantastic writing advice about the well-known writing tip “Show, don’t tell” below, and I’m very honored to be able to present her words to you.
Showing VS Telling
I just finished reading a New York Times Bestselling book. Because it’s a bestseller, I had high expectations and planned to fall in love with it. However, I was left sadly disappointed. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. After finishing the book, I sat there thinking about it. The writing, for the most part, was decent. The story interesting. So why didn’t I love it?
Because I was told the story. I wasn’t invested in the characters or what happened since it was all telling and no showing. What makes readers fall in love with characters? Why do we root for characters like Katniss, Tris, or Celaena? I believe it’s because the writer takes us on that character’s journey. We feel his or her pain, triumph, and love. In order to be invested and take that journey, we have to be captivated by the story. I believe this is done by showing a reader what’s happening, rather than telling them.
As a writer, it’s hard to find that balance between showing and telling. For me, when writing my first draft, it’s almost all telling. I am simply trying to get the story out without worrying about how I’m doing it. Once the story is on paper, I go back in and basically rewrite the entire thing so that I am showing the reader what’s happening. However, there are times where I do need to tell in order to keep the story moving along. Usually when the telling occurs, it’s a minor plot point and not of importance. Where showing becomes vital is between characters. I don’t like reading a story where the writer tells me how characters think and feel about those around them. A lot of times, the characters aren’t clear nor do they even understand their own thoughts and feelings. So it’s a lot of fun to read/write a story where the characters’ interactions with one another allow the reader to draw their own conclusions as to what is really going on.
On the flip side, I don’t want to overdo it with the showing either. Sometimes it’s ok to say a character had a stern look on their face without describing what that stern look looks like. Again, there is a fine line between showing too much. You have to keep the action moving along. I think that’s why it’s really important for a writer to have beta readers and critique partners.
Let’s look at one of my paragraphs from The Key.
“The girl’s eyes flew open. They were brilliant like the sea. Her hair was the color of hay, only silky instead of stiff and rough. Darmik wanted to touch it, just to be sure. The girl’s wet, gray dress clung to her body, her bosom heaving up and down from running.”
Ok, so in this paragraph, I don’t tell you her hair is blonde, I show you by giving a comparison. Same with her eyes. Also, by having Darmik notice several details so quickly, the reader has a hint that he is immediately drawn to this girl. The paragraph would have been boring if I’d said:
She opened her eyes. They were blue. She had blonde hair. She was breathing hard from running.
Yuck! So in this instance, telling is boring, dull, and adds nothing to the story or characters. Showing is what draws the reader in, captivates them, and leaves them wanting more!!!
Jennifer graduated from the University of San Diego with a degree in English and a teaching credential. Afterwards, she finally married her best friend and high school sweetheart. Jennifer is currently a full-time writer and mother of three young children. Her days are spent living in imaginary worlds and fueling her own kids’ creativity.
Visit Jennifer online at www.JenniferAnneDavis.com
Want to be a guest blogger? I would love to have you on! I am accepting original posts that focus on reading and writing. A picture and a bio are encouraged. You do not have to be published. If you qualify, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
10 thoughts on “#MondayBlogs: Guest Post Showing VS Telling”
Great post and what a fabulous guest article from Jennifer! Well done!
Thank you for writing about such an important topic, Jennifer!
Reblogged this on The Writing Chimp and commented:
Nice article, so hard to keep the right balance 🙂
Lovely posts and understandable analysis
Always a tightrope. Writing is sometimes like dogs, the mixed mutt version/style may be the healthiest and smartest one to choose.
Haha, yes, as a dog owner AND a writer, I agree. Info-dumping, done in the right way, can actually help ground the reader. But too much feels condescending and intrusive.
Reblogged this on theowlladyblog.
Thanks for giving an example of showing vs. telling. The showing paragraph captured my interest. As a writer, this is one of my weaknesses that I always have to work on. I’m afraid if I slow down the action to give description, then I’ll bore the reader. Quite the opposite! I need to stop getting in my head and push myself.
Great post! It’s always hard to get that balance just right.
Had the same high expectation but disappointment with DaVinci’s Code. The characters were blah and I didn’t care what happened to them