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  1. #1
    Heather Sell

    "Show, don't tell"

    In my prolouge, I tended to "show and not tell". I am trying to rewrite it, but still keep the basic gist of it. I wrote the prolouge in the first place, because I added a lot to the second chapter...something that is needed in order for the story to continue.

    I show a meeting between Aristotle and two other characters, who sign a document in their own blood, confirming that they will look after Rhiannon...I can't tell exactly WHY they do this, becaause I would give away too much. Basically, Aristotle has a really HUGE secret that he has to keep from Rhiannon...and he can't tell her until she's 21.

    I also feel that, the first few paragraphs of a book are usually "tell" because the writer is telling the reader what the character looks like, and it also reveals some of his/her present situation. Then the action starts...

    If this is wrong, it's probably because I've been reading some rather dry literature lately. War and Peace, to be exact.

    Any advice or techniques to "show and not tell"?

  2. #2
    Nathan Joyce

    Re: "Show, don't tell"

    I hate fantasy writers.

    You're the reason nobody of any substance gets published these days (a slight generalisation, granted). Your poorly written and borderline plagarised manuscripts clog up the publishing process like so many cubic litres of @!#$.

    Prolouge is not a word. Prologue is.

  3. #3
    John Oberon

    Re: "Show, don't tell"


    Don't know what Nathan's got up his butt, but I expect you can forgive him. Maybe he was trying to be funny...

    You best "show" through action and every sense except sight. You limit sight to action - what the narrator or whoever sees happening:

    When Nathan answered the knock at the door, his eyebrows rose and his jaw fell.

    "C-c-can I h-help you?" he asked.

    The stranger shuffled his leather clad feet a bit and asked, "Could I trouble you for some food?"

    "I...well, yes...certainly...yes, come in...c-come in."

    Nathan stepped back, and the stranger stooped low, turned his body sideways, and squeezed through the door. He planted his a foot in the foyer and the floor squealed as if in pain. He managed to enter and promptly whacked his head on the ceiling.


    Nathan apologized. "Sorry...stippling...my wife likes how it looks."

    "That's okay. Perhaps it would ease matters if I kneeled." With that, the stranger kneeled on the carpeted floor beside the foyer, which groaned like a submarine under high pressure.

    "W-what would you l-like to eat?"

    "Um...well, you...let's see...you wouldn't happen to have something like an Englishman, would you?"

    Through describing action you describe characters. I did not say "giant", "big", "huge", "enormous", but you know it just the same.

  4. #4
    Jeanne Gassman

    Re: "Show, don't tell"


    This very subject was discussed at length just a couple of weeks ago in this forum. Take a look at this thread for some helpful suggestions and answers:



  5. #5
    William Spencer

    Re: "Show, don't tell"


    Think in terms of writing not a story, but a movie. The reader is reading your words, and creating in his/her head the set of pictures you have in your head, what you're trying to get across.

    Now, instead of explaining what you're seeing in your head, just describe what you're seeing. (Of course, it's harder, but if writing well were easy, anyone could do it).

    The explanatory stuff is usually called "exposition." You have to get it in, but in a subtle way that's acceptable to the reader. Read a couple Hemmingway short stories, and you'll see just little exposition your probably need, really, to get the idea across.

    Hope this helps.

  6. #6
    Nathan Joyce

    Re: "Show, don't tell"

    We're going to have to make this even clearer for Heather as she embarks upon her journey into literary mediocrity- using our advice as paddles.

    Do what you want, it's not going to matter much in the end anyway. That being said, wouldn't you rather read: "Mr. Oberon shivered and withdrew as the flames of guilt fanned around his thighs. Henry lay prostrate, thoroughly splayed" over: "Mr. Oberon was 13 when he came out to his family. He felt an affinity for women but none of the women he knew gave him the longing he felt when he was with Henry."

  7. #7
    Joe Zeff

    Re: "Show, don't tell"


    I sat watching the rain fall and getting depressed.


    I sat on the veranda, watching the slow, gentle rain drip into my whiskey glass, dampening my spirits. The splashes the drops made in the glass reminded me, somehow, of tears falling, and the sound of them hitting the metal table reminded me of a funeral dirge. The more I listened, the sadder I got, but somehow, I just couldn't bring myself to go inside even though I knew that once I dried off I'd feel more cheerful.

  8. #8
    Greg Kosson

    Re: "Show, don't tell"

    Honestly Nathan I hate fantasy too, but in your sample above I liked the second version better. It sounds so clean and clear, while the "flames of guilt" style sounds to me like someone trying too hard.

  9. #9
    Laura Peplow

    Re: "Show, don't tell"

    if i had someone like you in my english class, i could have understood that much earlier.

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