Show, don’t tell

I get a lot of manuscripts from my students in jail and my students in the community. They say, “Here’s a story from my childhood,” or “Just like you said, I wrote about my first arrest.”
As I start to read, I look for one thing – a quotation mark – dialogue. It usually means a scene. Showing instead of telling. Great. I know the story will be interesting because I’ll feel like I’m right there.

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4 responses to “Show, don’t tell

  1. But where does the showing stop??? Don’t we need to know about the scene and the body language of the speakers?

    I use a lot of dialogue and I’m not sure where showing stops and script writing begins…

    • Yes, you’re right. An article, a short story cannot be all ‘show.’ There has to be some ‘tell.’ Some writers say that for fiction the proportion is twenty percent tell, and eighty percent show.

      In any case, when we show people falling out of an airplane, it’s important to know how they got there.

  2. An excellent book on this topic is ‘Showing and Telling’ by Laurie Alberts. Lots of great examples from great works. Really goes into detail when you switch from showing to telling. Cost me $21 at Chapters. Also remember with dialogue: dialogue means conflict and without conflict you’ve no story.

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