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  1. #1

    When Telling's Better than Showing

    I heard that for the most part, showing is better than telling and telling should only be used when you want to repeat things over and over how the narrator sees it and when what's happening isn't important. Are there any other times when telling should be used instead? And if the main character's self-centered, is it sometimes better to tell what they're feeling and seeing rather than showing it? Y'know how self-absorbed people like to talk about themselves a lot.

  2. #2
    Senior Member
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    Re: When Telling's Better than Showing

    It is currently in vogue to say showing is better than telling. Yet, every writer tells. Even big name writers tell, some quite extensively. Telling is difficult to avoid. Don't stress about it.

    RW

  3. #3
    Senior Member Avonne Writer's Avatar
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    Re: When Telling's Better than Showing

    I personally "show" certain scenes which make my story stronger. Then when I want to advance through time or set up a particular scene, then I "tell."

    As a writer, it is your call. You are the creator, after all.

  4. #4
    Aver0n 2o11
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    Re: When Telling's Better than Showing

    Why pit them against each other? Why not both? Heaps of movies have the narrator's voice blaring over the action as a mixture of both telling and showing - eg My Big Fat GREEK Wedding. Sometimes you have to tell. If your story features your bestfriend and you already know his name, telling is the only way to go about it.

    Showing:
    So my friend comes in and I ask him "What's your name?"
    And my friend says "It hasn't changed since we saw each other last Friday."
    I tell him. "I know but I have to get you to say it in order to 'show' my story."
    My friend reluctantly agrees to the exercise. "Fine, it's Tom. My name is Tom."

    Telling:
    My bestfriend, Tom, came into the room. We had been friends ever since elementary school.

  5. #5
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    Re: When Telling's Better than Showing

    I've weighed in on this before...my personal belief is that you should show anything really significant to the theme of your book, and anything that would be more interesting shown than told.

    Telling should be employed when efficiency is more important for the subject than narrative interest (i.e., showing would take way longer than is justified by the interest level of what's being shown) or when telling is independently justified by some artistic consideration.

    It should be remembered that the same sentence or paragraph may constitute telling with regard to one subject and showing with regard to another. For example, if you say "Jay had been an active participant in four gangs, six bank robberies, and one very confusing kidnapping," you're telling with respect to Jay's past criminal history, but showing with respect to his criminal character. On the other hand, if you say "Jay was a criminal through and through, and he threw his gang signal at the esse with the smoothness of a lifetime brother," you're telling about his criminal character, but showing his participation in the gang.

  6. #6
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    Re: When Telling's Better than Showing

    through and through and he threw? Come now John, having established yourself as the WN grammar Nazi, you certainly would not write like that.

    RW

  7. #7
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    Re: When Telling's Better than Showing

    It's grammatical, although you're right that it's awkward and probably wouldn't have survived a rewrite. Am I gonna do a rewrite? Oh, hell to the no.

  8. #8
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    Re: When Telling's Better than Showing

    Showing is dramatizing and there are very few situations where it is better for the reader to be told rather than to experience the moment for themselves by seeing the drama unfold.

    Telling is much easier for the writer. But no one said writing should be easy.

  9. #9

    Re: When Telling's Better than Showing

    You're damn right, Simon Says. Writing's fun and rewarding, but hard. LOL.

  10. #10
    Cat
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    Re: When Telling's Better than Showing

    Simpletons latch on to the "show, don't tell" maxim in critiques.

    Unto everything there is a season: a time to show, a time to tell . . .

    Each has its legitimate uses.

    Showing aids in the creation of verisimilitude, lends weight, and slows down the pace . . . among other things.

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