If it’s not the first rule a fiction writer is taught, it ought to be. Our heroine dearly wishes she had been taught it years ago, dear Reader. Show, don’t tell.
Seems simple, doesn’t it? Once I read it, I did the old V-8 ad, clunking myself on the forehead. Well, of course! Perfect sense! But how do I switch my brain, which does quality telling if I do say so myself, into automatically showing? Tricksy stuff, that. Retraining the brain isn’t easy regardless of the issue or habit you’re addressing.
I’ve found a few sites that help reinforce this basic rule of writing novels.
Let’s start with a short but well written article by Nathan Bransford – Literary Agent. It’s titled Showing vs. Telling. He recognizes that we hear the rule all the time, but rarely explore the meaning of it. He does so and gives some good rules of thumb for showing as well. This is a great blog. Nathan Bransford has some good information and advice for writers.
The Illiterate Scribe recently blogged an article called Telling Better Than You Show. An interesting title for an article that makes a case for showing, don’t you think? It caught my attention and so did the article. Take a look, maybe it will catch yours, too.
This rule is so pervasive, even Wikipedia has an entry about it. In it, we learn the principle behind it and get a little history lesson as well. I found it to be an interesting read.
Saving what is arguably the best for last, I present this article: Dennis G. Jerz from Seton Hill University wrote Show, Don’t (Just) Tell. This splendid article goes into great detail, teaching how to recognize when showing is necessary and how to go about showing well. He also speaks to the situations in which telling is appropriate. I recommend this one highly for anyone struggling at all with the Show, Don’t Tell rule. I review it regularly.
I’m getting much better at showing. I even do it spontaneously now, which is a huge step forward. When I think back to my first two novels and the degree of revision they’re going to require on this level alone? I do the V-8 ad again.