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  1. #1
    Senior Member
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    Jan 2011
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    Showing vs. Telling

    This is to all you wonderful and experienced writers, agents, and editors.

    I have heard a lot of talk about showing and not telling, but if I am honest, I don't quite know how that would look like. Could someone maybe give some examples? The same scene in "telling" (which I guess I the less desirable way to communicate it?) and then in "showing".

    I would really appreciate that, because I don't know what the difference is. :S

    Thanks!!



  2. #2
    Senior Member
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    Re: Showing vs. Telling

    Telling: Jake was nervous.

    Showing: Jake sat tapping his foot, eyes darting about, checking his watch every fifteen seconds.

    Telling: Rachel was angry at Bob.

    Showing: "Get out of my face, you jackass," Rachel spat.

    Telling: Mike had an enormous ego.

    Showing: Mike had a portrait on his wall. It was his own beloved form, cast in full glory on an eight-foot canvas, and adorned with the trappings of the Roman senate.

    Telling: Julie liked what Gary was doing.

    Showing: Julie moaned. "Don't stop," she said. "Don't you ever...****ing...stop!"

  3. #3
    Senior Member
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    Re: Showing vs. Telling

    Fantastic! Now I get it.

    Thank you so much.

  4. #4
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    Re: Showing vs. Telling

    One way you can tell the difference is that showing is usually longer than telling. Another way to look at the difference is to think about your experience as a reader - when you feel like you are being lectured to and there is a lot of information to absorb, the writer is telling, when you feel like you're doing a lot of problem solving on your own and you're being guided by the narrator, the writer is showing. Neither method is actually better than the other, it just depends on what's in vogue at the time of publication - Jane Austen did a lot of telling, because that was in vogue at the time. Modern writers need to do a lot of showing because this is what is in vogue now.

    It also matches shifts in theories of psychology. Telling is a behavioural approach and assumes that readers need to be told what to think and believe in by the all-knowing, all-wonderful writer. Showing is a constructivist approach and assumes that readers are active participants in the process of story telling. Telling makes a school boy or movie-theatre go-er out of the reader, whilst showing makes a detective or diagnostician out of the reader. Most stories have to work out a balance between the two as a story that is all telling or all showing will be equally boring in both ways.

  5. #5
    Senior Member
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    Re: Showing vs. Telling

    Fascinating. Thank you! So it actually is a "what's in fashion right now" thing? Very interesting. Hmmm.

  6. #6
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    Re: Showing vs. Telling

    "One way you can tell the difference is that showing is usually longer than telling"

    that's hilarious.

  7. #7
    Senior Member
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    Aug 2010
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    1,142

    Re: Showing vs. Telling

    I like Hawkwood's answer better.

    (BTW, Hawk, finish that last example, willya?)

  8. #8
    Senior Member
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    Re: Showing vs. Telling

    Yeah, John H. What the heck was Julie moaning about? :

    *_*

  9. #9
    Senior Member
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    593

    Re: Showing vs. Telling

    You guys are killing me here!! I am trying to go to sleep, and my obsessional personality won't let me do so until I have checked all the recent threads.

    And you are just too funny!!

    Ahem, yes, of course I also wondered what would have been next, had this been a novel of John H's. However, seeing that I AM TRYING TO GO TO SLEEP, I will pretend I did not read that and quietly slip under the covers....

  10. #10
    Amy Lou
    Guest

    Re: Showing vs. Telling

    Great post Sabina, I'm guilty of this as well, being new at it. Great examples John.
    Amy

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