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Showing vs. Telling


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#1 Nessa Arandur

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Posted 09 May 2008 - 07:40 PM

Found this great article and thought I should share. happy.gif

 

T is for the "Telling" Truth

© Barbara Dawson Smith

"Telling" is a way of conveying facts to the reader—the wrong way. The right way is to "show" information through the use of action, dialogue, and the five senses. (If you’re still confused, please read on and let me "show" you what I mean.)

[Cut due to copy and pasting entire article. See link: http://eacfaculty.org/owl/101/smith_telling_truth.pdf  ]

Source: Show, Don't Tell

 

EDIT as of May 2016 by Bird: Link is dead. Can't find original article.

Here is a replacement article with same information: http://www.wright.ed...ewriting101.pdf

And also this article: http://jerz.setonhil...ative1/showing/

 

Showing v. Telling Sentences

[SEE ARTICLE BELOW]

Source: Showing vs. Telling Sentences


Edited by Bird, 04 May 2016 - 09:40 PM.
Crossed out dead links and replaced them.

"To see the world, things dangerous to come to. To see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel. That is the purpose of life."

"Vision does not ignite growth. Passion does."

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#2 Akaishen

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Posted 09 May 2008 - 09:14 PM

Thanks for posting this Nessa! It's very helpful. As I was rewriting portions of Writing 12, I had a hard time. I'm incredibly rusty! I'm not sure how much writing I'll actually do, though this post served as a good reminder on how I should write vs how I shouldn't. Even if you already know the whole, "show vs tell," principle, it's good to re-learn it and highlight it in your thought process while you let your creative juices flow.

:flowers:

~Achi

#3 Feira

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Posted 10 May 2008 - 10:08 AM

Yeah, that was great! Thanks, Nessa!
^_^

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#4 Akaishen

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Posted 11 October 2008 - 02:17 PM

I just wanted to *bump* this topic. Showing vs Telling is a big thing when it comes to creative writing. Once you apply it to your writing you can do wonders! You'll also be able to see the difference more clearly when reading someone else's stories. So, I'm bumping this because it's important and I want to make sure that members read and apply this to their work. :)

~Achi

#5 Adi

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Posted 12 October 2008 - 03:30 AM

oh yeah I for one need to learn this as soon as possible. Thanks for the BUMP!

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#6 PhrozenFear

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Posted 19 October 2008 - 05:36 PM

This is probably one of the most useful things I've ever read. *bows before the knowledge*

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#7 Virgilius Sade

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Posted 23 January 2009 - 11:10 AM

This is truly a treasure trove that must made permanent. I bow to you, in thanks of knowledge. Cheers! :D
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#8 BluFenix

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Posted 23 January 2009 - 04:31 PM

Thanks for posting this Nessa, it's a great resource!

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#9 CL Stegall

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Posted 24 January 2009 - 11:55 PM

I wanted to note this topic (bumping it a little, as well).

If you gather no other tactic in writing, let this be the sole cat in the bag.

Once an author masters this talent, the rest can seem like cake. Trust me and reread one or two pieces of your work and transform it by using the process of showing instead of telling; it will make a world of difference in even how you yourself view the finished piece.

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#10 Burnside

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Posted 24 March 2009 - 02:13 AM

Nice, thanks for this, it really helps :P
Feedback is one of the most important things to a writer. There's nothing more disappointing then making the effort to write something and have no replies for weeks on end. If you've made the time to read something, please spare 30 seconds to give advice or just say, "it was good (or bad), keep writing (so you can improve)"
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#11 Xia

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Posted 25 March 2009 - 09:51 AM

Thanks for this! I have 1 question though. As somewhat of a writer, and a horrible reader (I don't read much anymore, and it really takes a lot for a book to grab my attention), I've found that Showing vs. Telling is more like a dance. If you show every little thing a book, the reader soon gets bored of having to read through paragraphs of text just to find out that the boy was scared. I understand that description is important, but keeping your audience interested is also important. Any suggestions as to when one should 'Show', or 'Tell'? Or is it perhaps that you 'Show' the reader what you want in a shorter amount of writing?

. : c o m i n g . s o o n : .

#12 Dani

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Posted 30 March 2009 - 02:32 PM

i just learned, :P sweeet :thumbup: now i just need a cure for writers block
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#13 Nessa Arandur

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Posted 29 October 2009 - 07:17 PM

Thanks for this! I have 1 question though. As somewhat of a writer, and a horrible reader (I don't read much anymore, and it really takes a lot for a book to grab my attention), I've found that Showing vs. Telling is more like a dance. If you show every little thing a book, the reader soon gets bored of having to read through paragraphs of text just to find out that the boy was scared. I understand that description is important, but keeping your audience interested is also important. Any suggestions as to when one should 'Show', or 'Tell'? Or is it perhaps that you 'Show' the reader what you want in a shorter amount of writing?

Sorry it has taken so long to answer this, Xia! I've found a few resources on the net regarding when telling is usually used to a better extent than showing:

The first is from the website >HERE<. Not much specific info in that article, but this good paragraph:

Another oft-quoted writing rule is show, don’t tell – and that’s an important one, too, especially in poetry.

However, there are times when the reverse is true. It’s vital to keep your story lean and cruft-free, and E. E. Knight has some suggestions on how telling rather than showing can be the course of greater wisdom in certain situations:

“Most of your telling-not-showing is going to happen at the beginning or end of chapters or scenes. It’s routine business keeping, letting the reader know that time has passed and location has shifted (if it has).

As usual, he’s included examples and quotations – which are invaluable, as it helps to see the effect of a technique rather than simply being advised to use it.


A good one is from >THIS< Wikipedia article:

"Show, don't tell", like all rules, has exceptions. According to James Scott Bell, "Sometimes a writer tells as a shortcut, to move quickly to the meaty part of the story or scene. Showing is essentially about making scenes vivid. If you try to do it constantly, the parts that are supposed to stand out won't, and your readers will get exhausted." Showing requires more words; telling may cover a greater span of time more concisely. A novel that contains only showing would be incredibly long; therefore, a narrative can contain some legitimate telling.

Scenes that are important to the story should be dramatized with showing, but sometimes what happens between scenes can be told so the story can make progress. According to Orson Scott Card and others, "showing" is so terribly time consuming that it is to be used only for dramatic scenes. The objective is to find the right balance of telling versus showing, action versus summarization. Factors like rhythm, pace, and tone come into play.

According to novelist Francine Prose:

[The Alice Munro passage] contradicts a form of bad advice often given young writers—namely, that the job of the author is to show, not tell. Needless to say, many great novelists combine "dramatic" showing with long sections of the flat-out authorial narration that is, I guess, what is meant by telling. And the warning against telling leads to a confusion that causes novice writers to think that everything should be acted out ... when in fact the responsibility of showing should be assumed by the energetic and specific use of language."

The issue of when to "show" and when to "tell" is the subject of ongoing debate.

I hope that helps a little or at least starts you off on your own search for the answers! :)

"To see the world, things dangerous to come to. To see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel. That is the purpose of life."

"Vision does not ignite growth. Passion does."

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Currently reading:

CITY OF THE LOST - by Kelley Armstrong


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#14 Robert G Rhodes

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Posted 08 December 2009 - 03:28 PM

I wanted to bump this topic aswell. After the great advice I got from Bird about my novel, I went back to this post to read it a lot closer than I did the first time. I am currently doing rewrites on the Prologue and Chapter 1, and this topic has helped so much.
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#15 EverlastiinqWords

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Posted 08 June 2010 - 02:29 AM

This got me thinking about the different methods to writing. Thanks for the knowledge. (:
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#16 Dreaming of the Mists

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Posted 08 June 2010 - 03:15 PM

Great article. TY. :)

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#17 Junhugie

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Posted 27 September 2010 - 12:18 PM

This reminds me...

I've found that the best way to get past telling is to reject telling AND showing.

Be, don't show. Describing is (usually) a terrible thing for writing because it isn't what your wanting to communicate. You don't want the reader to understand the feeling you're trying to share, you don't want them to see the feeling, you want them to feel the feeling.

I think that this, at its core, is what "show, dont tell" really means. When they say "show", I don't think they mean throw in a whole bunch of random sensory details, I think they mean bring out the living, organic part of the story. The part you care about.

That's just what I think :P

#18 Steerpike

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Posted 27 September 2010 - 02:37 PM

It's a good article.

Of course, it is also a Copyright violation, unless permission to reproduce it was obtained. Just throwing that out because I think it is important for a writing site to respect the copyright of other authors.




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