Saturday, June 11, 2011

Show not Tell

I'm not sure it would classify as a debate or not but have you ever heard an agent, or maybe read somewhere that your writing should show the reader the world you are creating and not just tell them about it.  I find there is a lot of truth in this precept.  For instance, how would you describe the moment when the iconic baddies such as Jason and Freddy Krueger (in movies), or maybe Voldemort and Matron Baenre (in books) enter the scene.  When such important characters such as these make their appearances I think it is of utmost importance that they leave a reader with a lasting memory, heck even chills would be nice.

This would be an easy example though, what about the other parts of the book.  Do you think it is important to describe the scenery in such a way that "shows" rather than "tells".  Take for instance a simple romantic stroll on the beach between your two love birds.  How many pages would you dedicate to describing the ocean, the sky, the sand?  Would you have a small aside that tells about the origin of a tiny dark shell that protrudes out of the surf or would that just distract from the moment?  I guess the amount of detail should be kept in balance so long as there is enough to help put the reader in the scene with the characters.  Help the reader smell the salty air and feel the squish of the damp sand beneath their toes.

Some writers use a good bit of dialogue to achieve much of the meat in their manuscript.  A lot can be said about this particular style and of course their are a lot of readers that enjoy a good exchange of verbal cues to tell them what is going on in the book's world.  She pointed down, "Sam look at that shell over there, why do you think it is so dark compared to the others?"  Kaylie asked.  Sam dipped down and scooped up the broken conch and examined it.  He brushed the loose sand off the surface and looked up searching for a good explanation.  She loved his extravagant tales and off the wall whit.   "A long time ago this shell was the home a little mollusk named Onivia.  She was no stranger to adventure..."  And so Sam would give his dialogue.

I guess the moral of this little blog is take a look at your writing, a hard look.  Read it to yourself, heck have others read it to you.  Then close your eyes and picture the scene, can you do it?  Were there to many gaps in the sentences that keep you from picturing it well.  Don't be afraid to rewrite and expand on some of your descriptions and dialogues to achieve this.  Your reader should never have to reach to far to get 'there.'  Where there is that place you are trying to take them to whether it be the next state over or some distant fantasical world.  Yes of course they need to have some use of their own imagination to help along the journey, but don't push it to far.  In other words don't just 'tell' it to them so they think they are reading an encyclopedia entry on the locale, "show' them the place through great use of your words.       

1 comment:

  1. Yup, show and not tell is probably the greatest transition I had to make when I started writing. I use dialogue to do it. It's not as easy as people think to show fantasy and not tell.