Show, Don’t Tell — Always??

Show, don’t tell, of course, writers bow their heads when they hear those words. And we all try to follow that rule as we write. We write in scenes, we try to see everything through the eyes of our lead character, or, in chapter two, through the eyes of the bad guy.

But still our critics say, “You should ‘Show, don’t tell.’”

The ratio is eighty-twenty, some writes hold – eighty showing, twenty telling. If you have an action scene, you need to explain how your hero got to that scene. Thus some telling. But even more simply in your opening, you’ve got some telling to do, after the woman screams “I’m leaving you.”

Where is the line? I know that I’ve critiqued others for this terrible crime, and then I’ve found the same kind of thing in my own writing. Where’s the line? If I want to write a scene from Susan’s point of view, can I not tell the reader that she’s twenty-eight, has only one leg from a cancer operation, is drop-dead beautiful and her husband left her when she got cancer? Do I have to filter that into the story or can I tell some of it? Where’s the line?Show, don't 2

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7 responses to “Show, Don’t Tell — Always??

  1. JMO: The line is where you are reading information that is useless, changes nothing about the reading experience except to give you a headache born of repetitive redundancies. Prior statement all your fault, you taught me where the line is and I tow it as well as I can, hehehe

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