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?

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

  1. Interesting… I do more telling than showing in my first drafts. Sometimes I keep bits of the telling as I work through second and third drafts. You do bring up an interesting point though. Where is the line? how do we know when to tell and when to show and can we show everything and the reader get the points we are making? And maybe less is more when it comes to describing someone.. lots of thoughts to ponder here.

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