"Show me how you do that trick, the one that makes me scream." She said.

January 31, 2010

Yes, show me because I can actually experience what you want me to, instead of hearing about it. The Cure promises "Show me how you do it and I promise you, I promise that I'll run away with you. I'll run away with you."
(Drawing by Zoe)

Show, don't tell. It's how to get our readers to run away with us in our story. It's also beat in our little writer brains. Even though we all work hard to show, sometimes we slip and tell. No matter how many articles I read about how to show and not tell I find it hard to verbalize in a single sentence or phrase to help me remember and stay focused. Heidi Thomas over at Blood Red Pencil did an interview with editor BarbaraWarren with Blue Mountain Editorial Service. One of the questions Barbara answered summed up Show vs Tell for me in a simple answer.
What are the major mistakes you look for when editing a manuscript?
One big mistake is to tell the story instead of showing it through dialogue and action. It’s the difference between someone telling you what happened yesterday and you being present when it actually happened.
Someone telling you versus you actually being present.  Ah yes!  Finally a post-it note reminder that I can use every time I edit that can get my writing where it needs to be.  So how about you, what gets you there?  Ahem...in your writing of course.

I thought to apologize for the risky photo...but I can't.  I love it.

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  1. No apologies necessary! For me, it's about a hundred bookmarked browser pages I continue to refer to.

  2. I love dialogue! It's so much easier to move the story along! Good post!

  3. Sometimes I think I use too much dialogue. Like a crutch. I think I'm good at it though. Maybe that's a problem. I usually need crit partners to point out show don't tell when I'm not doing it.

  4. "Someone telling you versus you actually being present." That is a great reminder! Thank you.

  5. I'm with Judy. I'm all about the dialogue. People can pass along info with their words. If I can't say it in dialogue, I'll try dropping subtle hints through how people act. Well, I hope they're subtle hints, anyway.

  6. I re-read a lot! If I don't get a visual I rewrite till I get that visual.

  7. It's actually a gorgeous photograph with the curving lines and blazing red hair. No apology necessary!

    I don't have a problem reading descriptions of places if they are written well and transport me away. But, I realize to get published you either need to have a big name (in order to break the rules) or to really show don't tell. Dialogue is perfect, but REALLY has to be written well. I would much prefer to be told than to be given halting, poorly written dialogue. Action is another way of showing. Dropping your characters right into the scene rather (through flashback or other forms) rather than telling the action via story later on is effective.

    Good question. Good post. Great picture!


  8. DL – Me too! Tons of pages, that if were a book would be worn. I even have to sub-categorize them now.

    Judy – I prefer the non-dialogue. I’m an action kind of girl ;)

    Matt – Oh my crit partner points mine out too, I just hope this little reminder helps me start noticing it before she does.

    Anissa - “Being present “ really hit home with me. Visualize yourself in the moment. I can do that for sure.

    Dominique – You dialogue people have skills. My dialogue is all tell, that’s why I don’t like mine.

    VS - I have to look for one thing at a time when I re-read. Once look for grammar only. Second time, look for repetition. Third time look for tell. Heck, by the time I’m done I will have read the thing ten times.

    Michele - yes, I agree. When dialogue tells me in such an obvious way, I feel like the character stopped talking and the author started telling.

  9. I LOVE this picture. And that is a gem of a post it about showing versus telling. I'm going to use it too!!


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