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Showing vs. Telling examples

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

Since we've gone over this repeatedly, and many here still aren't sure what the difference is, here are some examples from a recent discussion on Quora (the answers are from Laura Hancock, with a 'chronic addition to fiction and diction'.

Telling: When I got to the airport, he was happy to see me.

Showing: When I got to the airport, his face broke open into a big smile.

In the "showing" sentence, I don't have to tell you that he's happy. He's smiling. If he wasn't happy to see me, he'd likely not be smiling. You know he's smiling.

Telling: She had beautiful long brown hair.

Showing: Her hair cascaded over her shoulders in glorious, sandy waves.

In the "showing" sentence, the hair in question is clearly not short. The adjective "glorious" is hyperbolic, but clearly positive. I mean, while I didn't use the direct words "long" and "beautiful," you don't think I'm describing somebody with short, unkempt hair, do you? And if I say "sandy," you know I mean "a brownish blond." I'm not describing a redhead or somebody with black hair, and unless I added additional pertinent information, I likely don't mean there is literal sand in her hair.

The "showing" sentences are more evocative. They allow me to inject images into your mind rather than simply describing facts to you.

Now, this doesn't mean that 'telling' is bad all the time, mind you. Sometimes telling is good, particularly if the detail in question is relatively unimportant.

"When I saw her for the first time, she was wearing a green dress; the expression on her face said that she was about to chew lead and spit bullets."


I told you that she was wearing a green dress. That detail was relatively unimportant (but added since I may plan to do something with that detail later). I showed you that she was… probably not happy. The more evocative phrase in that sentence is "chew lead and spit bullets."

Let's switch it up.

"When I saw her for the first time she was absolutely furious; adorned in a gown greener than grass, an organza flurry scurried in her wake."


I told you she was furious. I showed you that the dress was a dark, lush green, and likely a fancy dress since I call it a "gown" and I reference organza, which is typically used in evening wear and it's long enough to "flurry in her wake." A casual sundress won't do that. Plus, the word "adorned" implies "carefully decorated." You don't "adorn" yourself for any average Tuesday. You "adorn" yourself for your wedding day.

Basically, the only bad part of the "show don't tell" advice is that it doesn't address the reality that… uh, sometimes you need to tell. Otherwise you're just going to get convoluted.

In the example where I call it a mere "green dress," that detail isn't important at the moment. It may become important later.

"It was in that moment I realized that the dress had clearly been picked to match her eyes."

Now the fact that the dress is green is important because I use it to describe her eyes, which are clearly also green. But it's not important at the moment. Here's a put-together scene:

When I saw her for the first time, she was wearing a green dress; the expression on her face said that she was about to chew lead and spit bullets. Wonderful.

She glared up at me; the crown of her head couldn't have reached my chin, but the fury made her ten feet tall. "I can't believe you have the nerve to show your fool face here," she hissed.

It was in that moment I realized the dress had clearly been picked to match her eyes. Probably to accentuate them.

Or maybe it was merely the unmitigated fury making them stand out like that.

Again. The green isn't important at first. But it becomes important. I told you, and then I showed you.
Replies:   Dominions Son
Crumbly Writer

Following this up with one of my own, here's a quick, two-second revision I made while reviewing my latest chapter (it's hardly as dramatic as Laura's examples):

Before: Yitzl was silent, pondering his own internal thoughts, only to glance up again with a somewhat worried triumphant grin.

After: Yitzl was silent, then glanced up, his eyes bright, though his brows remained knotted and his eyes were squinted. "I must say, just that little extra freedom is … invigorating. I'm … considering options I've never allowed myself to entertain before."

Often, it doesn't take much, just an awareness that you can show the important moments, while minimizing the unimportant ones.

Anyone have any better examples, hopefully something from your own latest works?

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

And if I say "sandy," you know I mean "a brownish blond."


Actually, I would associate sandy with a lighter shade of blond. Think about the color of beach sand, brownish it isn't.

I would read your telling example as a much darker brown, a brunette rather than a dirty blond.

Replies:   Capt. Zapp
Ross at Play
Updated:

SB, did you mis-transcribe something there. A comment said a "move evocative phrase" but the two phrases are the same, I think?

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

Before: Yitzl was silent, pondering his own internal thoughts, only to glance up again with a somewhat worried triumphant grin.

After: Yitzl was silent, then glanced up, his eyes bright, though his brows remained knotted and his eyes were squinted. "I must say, just that little extra freedom is … invigorating. I'm … considering options I've never allowed myself to entertain before."


This makes a fine example of where I think a lot of these discussions go off the rail. The after isn't quite showing the same thing as what the before tells.

As a reader I get neither triumph or a grin from the after, and while the dialog in the after implies some introspection, I don't see it as implying either the same level of introspection as the before nor that the prior silence was driven by the introspection.

In my opinion, it both weakens the case that the showing is better and confuses the issue of how to change telling to showing when the meaning changes too much between the telling and showing examples.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

Here's another good description from a subsequent Quora answer:

If there's one stumbling block that trips up people who are trying to write genre fiction, it's the challenge of "show, don't tell." Some people don't seem to be able to grasp the difference, and so they keep churning out narrative-based stories ("telling") that editors reject because what they (and the readers) are looking for is scene-based writing ("showing").

I think part of the problem is that narrative is the natural way we tell each other stories off the page. We say, for example, "My grandfather was in the merchant marine in World War II and on his first convoy crossing, his ship was torpedoed off Newfoundland." We don't verbally construct a scene, saying, "It was cold on the open bridge of the SS Minerva, two days out of Halifax. The old freighter's constant dip and climb through the deep-troughed waves of the North Atlantic threw up a heavy spray, most of which froze on the chilled steel of the bulkhead — but the rest seemed to be aimed directly at the beardless face of young Pete Hammond, making his first voyage into the longest, most murderous battle of the Second World War. He thrust his fists deeper into the pockets of his sailor's pea jacket, tucked his wind-numbed chin behind his closed collar button, and counted the minutes until the ship rang four bells, when old Albert would come up and relieve him."

But if you want to write sf, fantasy, mysteries, romance, westerns – any of the genres – you have to overcome your default storytelling instincts and acquire a set of tools that let you create the illusion of immediacy of action (i.e., of "being there") in the reader's mind. Those tools are:

· sequentiality – the action happens, step by step, before the reader's eyes;
· detail – rather than generic, generalized descriptions, you draw the reader's eye (and ear and nose and sense of touch) to specific, precise details from which the reader will confabulate the whole;
· point of view – genre fiction is mostly told from the point of view (pov) of the characters, rather than from the god's-eye view of an omniscient narrator; my preferred pov is called third-person-limited, i.e., each scene is anchored in one (and only one – that's why it's called "limited") character's view and appreciation of what's going on in that scene, and that character is referred to as he, or she, or it, as the case may be. First-person pov, where the point of view is that of the protagonist or another character who refers to him/her/itself as "I," is less common in genre fiction, but is acceptable. Second-person pov – as in a story that begins "You open the door and ease yourself into the room" – is usually not an easy sell;
· character sensorium – you deepen the illusion of immediacy by showing the action in the scene through the pov character's senses of sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste, and the other lesser senses (balance, hair-raising response, etc.) to vicariously stimulate the reader's own sensorium; using the technique effectively requires picking the right sensory details that will best cause the reader to confabulate and identify with the character's situation;
· conflict – every scene is built around a conflict, whether major or minor, whether physical, verbal, spiritual, psychological, and the scene begins when that conflict begins and ends when it ends.

I like this advice, because rather than belaboring the differences between showing and telling, the author provides additional tools to use instead of trying to parse the difference between the two.

Gives you a little more to consider than merely adding words.

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

This makes a fine example of where I think a lot of these discussions go off the rail. The after isn't quite showing the same thing as what the before tells.

As a reader I get neither triumph or a grin from the after, and while the dialog in the after implies some introspection, I don't see it as implying either the same level of introspection as the before nor that the prior silence was driven by the introspection.

In my opinion, it both weakens the case that the showing is better and confuses the issue of how to change telling to showing when the meaning changes too much between the telling and showing examples.

In my example, I didn't mind making the connection less obvious, as I wanted the difference to be more subtle, less 'in your face'. I want the reader to go 'Oh yeah', rather than 'Duh!'. Or rather, I want the reader to see where the character is going in stages, rather than all at once, which my original sentence did.

But you're right, which is why we're often reluctant to change telling sentences, because they sometimes make the resulting passage more ambiguous, rather than explicit. That's especially true here on SOL, where you might get someone complaining 'I don't get it', which causes you to go back and remove any ambiguity, only to weaken a passage that most readers got immediately, rather than catering to the weakest reader, who didn't. :(

Replies:   Dominions Son
Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

SB, did you mis-transcribe something there. A comment said a "move evocative phrase" but the two phrases are the same, I think?

Did you post this to the wrong thread, or did SB delete his original comment?

robberhands

Waxing poetic and using metaphors doesn't change 'telling' into 'showing'.

For example:

... the expression on her face said that she was about to chew lead and spit bullets.

She doesn't describe observable details of a facial expression; it's an interpretation. That's telling, not showing.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@robberhands

Waxing poetic and using metaphors doesn't change 'telling' into 'showing'.

She doesn't describe observable details of a facial expression; it's an interpretation. That's telling, not showing.

Yeah, I noticed that too, though I skipped over it. However, I didn't see it as 'waxing poetic' as a more 'dramatic presentation'. "Chewing lead" and "Spitting bullets" is much more dramatic than "it was a green dress". 'D

Replies:   robberhands
Crumbly Writer

Here's yet another take:

There are gray areas and borderlines to this that can be confusing, and like all writing advice, you have to take it with a grain of salt and not over-do it. But at its most basic level, here's the difference:

Telling: You are telling the audience how the character feels.

Showing: You are letting the audience draw their own conclusion based on what the character actually does or is experiencing.

Telling: Mary felt nervous as she waited for an answer.

Showing: Mary felt her hands begin to sweat and her throat go dry as she waited for an answer.

Notice that showing almost always takes a little longer. It can be tempting just to tell, and sometimes it's appropriate. But your audience can relate to the experience better, even feel as if they're experiencing it themselves, if they're shown, and that's what really draws people into a piece of fiction.

The blogger's ('aspiring novelist') point here, is that the 'showing' isn't as obvious, and requires the readers participation (i.e. they have to figure it out on their own,, rather than being spoon fed the information. As a result, many will miss the point entirely, however, on the flip side, hopefully the more engaging 'personal details' will engage the reader, and evoke the added work your asking them to do.

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

I want the reader to go 'Oh yeah', rather than 'Duh!'. Or rather, I want the reader to see where the character is going in stages, rather than all at once, which my original sentence did.


It's a far bigger difference than "duh" vs "oh yeah". It's not just that the before gets there all at once and the after gets there in stages, in my opinion, they get to very different paces, and that just muddies what ever the hell you are trying to convey by contrasting the two versions.

robberhands
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

No, 'chewing lead and spitting bullets' is a metaphor. Waxing poetic is; 'Adorned in a gown greener than grass, an organza flurry scurried in her wake'. And it's still telling that she wore a green dress.

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

Did you post this to the wrong thread, or did SB delete his original comment?


He didn't mean "SB." I haven't contributed to this thread. I know better. LOL

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
robberhands

@Crumbly Writer

Telling: Mary felt nervous as she waited for an answer.

Showing: Mary felt her hands begin to sweat and her throat go dry as she waited for an answer.

Typical, women always 'feel' something.

Telling: Mary was nervous as she waited for an answer.

Showing: Mary's hands begin to sweat and her throat goes dry as she waited for an answer.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@robberhands

Showing: Mary's hands begin to sweat and her throat goes dry as she waited for an answer.


Shouldn't that read: Mary's hands begin to sweat and her throat begins to go dry as she begins to wait for an answer? :)

AJ

Geek of Ages
Updated:

You tell the reader things you want them to know; you show them things you want them to care about.

I've yet to encounter a better explanation than that.

robberhands

@awnlee jawking

Shouldn't that read: Mary's hands begin to sweat and her throat begins to go dry as she begins to wait for an answer? :)

Perfect! That reads even worse and there won't be any reason to keep her feelings out of it.

Mary starts to feel her hands begin to sweat and her throat begins to go dry as she begins to wait for an answer.

awnlee jawking

@robberhands

Virtual thumbs up!

AJ

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

Showing: Mary felt her hands begin to sweat and her throat go dry as she waited for an answer.


"Felt" is a telling word called a filter.

Switch Blayde

@Geek of Ages

You tell the reader things you want them to know; you show them things you want them to care about.

I've yet to encounter a better explanation than that.


I don't agree with that. Here's a better explanation from wikipedia:

Show, don't tell is a technique often employed in various kinds of texts to enable the reader to experience the story through action, words, thoughts, senses, and feelings rather than through the author's exposition, summarization, and description. The goal is not to drown the reader in heavy-handed adjectives, but rather to allow readers to interpret significant details in the text.

Replies:   Geek of Ages
Capt. Zapp

@Dominions Son

Think about the color of beach sand, brownish it isn't.


That all depends on how much pollution has washed up on the beach. :P

Geek of Ages

@Switch Blayde

No, I'm going to go with the advice from the award-winning published author, not with a dry explanation (that I already knew) from Wikipedia.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Geek of Ages

No, I'm going to go with the advice from the award-winning published author


How about a Pulitzer prize winning author?

"If a writer of prose knows enough of what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them."
— Ernest Hemingway

That's not a favorite of mine, btw. I'm not a Hemingway fan. I'm more of a Mark Twain fan.

"Don't say the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream."
— Mark Twain

Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

Did you post this to the wrong thread, or did SB ...

MY MISTAKE #1
I should have said I suspected you had mis-transcribed something in the OP.

MY MISTAKE #2
I dashed off a quick one-line question saying I suspected a mistake had been made.

You wrote, "The more evocative phrase in that sentence ..." You were contrasting phrases in one sentence. I interpreted that as contrasting old and new versions of the same sentence, so when both versions were the same I suspected a transcription error.

Ross at Play

@awnlee jawking

Shouldn't that read: Mary's hands begin to sweat and her throat begins to go dry as she begins to wait for an answer? :)

The corrected version in my head before seeing your post had '... as she waits for an answer'.

... if for no other reason to avoid using 'begin' three times in one sentence.

I decided against pointing out the tense mismatch, but as you'd already been there ... :-)

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Geek of Ages

You tell the reader things you want them to know; you show them things you want them to care about.

I've yet to encounter a better explanation than that.

Thanks.

I had never seen as good an explanation as that before.

I thought the alternative SB suggested was a good explanation of the 'how to', but I still prefer your explanation of 'when and why'.

Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

but I still prefer your explanation of 'when and why'.


Here's a when:

"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."
— James Scott Bell

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play
Updated:

@Switch Blayde

Here's a when:

I do not want to argue with someone about something I know is their forte and one of my weaknesses.

At my level of expertise the question contained in the quote from Geek of Ages might give me a better chance of analysing to detect the kind of 'when' you just described.

Ross at Play

Are true stories different?

I am currently writing a short true story, of my life. My goal is to show with my examples some truisms about the way all sick families keep secrets.

I suspect I should relentlessly "tell" every gory detail exactly as they happened. My planning now is focused on what events to include and the order they are revealed.

Any thoughts? Is there any reason someone can think of for wanting to "show" in such a story.

Dominions Son

@Ross at Play

I suspect I should relentlessly "tell" every gory detail exactly as they happened.


Emphasis mine:

I am currently writing a short true story, of my life.


These two things seem somehow contradictory to me. :)

Ross at Play

@Dominions Son

These two things seem somehow contradictory to me. :)

I use a minimalist style. :-)

I plan to rip readers' guts out in a few hundred words describing one episode from ny life, repeat for a dozen or so episodes, and I have my short story.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
awnlee jawking

@Switch Blayde

Ah, the good old days, when literary awards went to authors who could tell stories, rather than drowning readers in heavy-handed adjectives!

AJ

robberhands

@awnlee jawking

Do you mean adjectives like 'heavy-handed'?

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@robberhands

heavy-handed


Off the top of my head, I can't think of an instance where using 'heavy-handed' would be considered showing rather than telling.

AJ

Replies:   robberhands
Ross at Play

I'd have used "ham-fisted" instead, but then I am inclined to ...

robberhands
Updated:

@awnlee jawking

I can't think of an instance where using 'heavy-handed' would be considered showing rather than telling.

Maybe if you'd change it into an adverb and modifying a 'strong verb'?

ETA: He heavy-handedly swung his big hammer, smashing the critics head.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

He didn't mean "SB." I haven't contributed to this thread. I know better. LOL

I knew you didn't have any posts, but I also didn't recognize ANY post on this thread which matches his reply, which is why I asked if he accidentally posted it to the wrong thread.

Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

Shouldn't that read: Mary's hands begin to sweat and her throat begins to go dry as she begins to wait for an answer? :)

The "waiting for an answer" is the BIG tell here, not that she was nervous. The author handled the nervous part, but the 'she was nervous because she was waiting is fairly obvious, and really doesn't need to be explicitly stated (unless they're also waiting for a pizza to be delivered).

Crumbly Writer

@Geek of Ages

I've yet to encounter a better explanation than that.

Ditto. But authors keep complaining that they don't GET the difference between showing and telling. This was just another attempt to highlight the difference, and as all the other attempts, it degenerates into an "IS!"/"IS NOT!" argument, rather than anyone offering reasonable alternatives (though a few did suggest slight wording changes.

In the end, we still cannot agree on whether there's ANY reason to consider showing instead of telling. :( Any time someone suggest something which might help another author, people jump on it for it's not being a 'Perfect' solution. The point isn't for a single suggestion to be without flaws, it's only meant to help authors understand how to begin the process.

Crumbly Writer

@robberhands

Perfect! That reads even worse and there won't be any reason to keep her feelings out of it.

Mary starts to feel her hands begin to sweat and her throat begins to go dry as she begins to wait for an answer.

The phrase "begins to" is classic passive phrasing, and IMHO, should be avoided if at all possible. It's a way of separating the reader from the actions described, so they tend to think the entire passage is 'immaterial' to the story.

We don't need to build artificial walls to keep readers from enjoying the story, we need to build more doors so they can get INTO the story!

But, of course, not everyone agrees with me on this.

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

That's not a favorite of mine, btw. I'm not a Hemingway fan. I'm more of a Mark Twain fan.

"Don't say the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream."
— Mark Twain

Or, putting that into SOL terms, don't write the woman screamed "I'm CUMMMMIIIINNNNGGG!!!!!!!!!!!!". Instead, write how she clutched the sheets, how beads of swear appeared on her forehead and upper chest. Don't shout at the readers, but let the readers come to the conclusion themselves.

In other words, a mule dragged to water will rarely drink, but one led to water will have no problem drinking.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

I just checked back through the thread.
The culprit for introducing a version with 'begin' used three times was AJ, and the mischievous imp added a smiley on the end.

Shouldn't that read: Mary's hands begin to sweat and her throat begins to go dry as she begins to wait for an answer? :)

The first versions suggested by both CW and robberhands both had only the first 'begin'.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

Thanks.

I had never seen as good an explanation as that before.

I thought the alternative SB suggested was a good explanation of the 'how to', but I still prefer your explanation of 'when and why'.

That's why I liked best about the article. It stipulated the difference between WHEN you tell and WHEN you choose to show. Even better, it suggested (demonstrated) you start off telling, before switching to showing when it's most needed.

That was more informative than the arguments over whether "gown" is more or less telling than "dress" is.

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

Any thoughts? Is there any reason someone can think of for wanting to "show" in such a story.

Absolutely. If you want to 'tell' a story about people keeping secrets, then don't ANNOUNCE that they're keeping secrets. Instead, show how uncomfortable they are with the truth. How, anytime the discussion turns to the underlying illness, the discussion changes, the participants suddenly find other things to do or other places to be. You want to SHOW the discomfort, rather than TELLING reader that the characters ARE nervous.

However, I wouldn't belabor the point. There's no sense SHOWING the discomfort the patient is suffering if the focus of the story is on the lack of communication (or, if you want to establish how much the patient is suffering to set the scene, then don't keep reinforcing it over and over, as that only distracts from the whole point of the story). That final point is an example of showing too much, to the point that it dilutes the story.

Rather than having the patient grimacing, simply have him silently grasping the railing, or his sheets, and the conversation dying as everyone looks away.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

These two things seem somehow contradictory to me.

That's Ross's point. He's trying to move from one unsuccessful storytelling technique to another more apt one, but is having some trouble making the transition.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ernest Bywater

Without getting into the argument of what is show and what is tell the major aspects of using either in a story is to pick which to use for which part of the story and to use them in a balance that best suits the story you're telling.

I don't want to get into a definition of what constitutes which because I've yet to see any two of the 'writing pundits' agree on the definitions of both. Most of what you see are the personal opinions of individuals on how they define the two.

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@Ross at Play


I use a minimalist style. :-)

I plan to rip readers' guts out in a few hundred words


Now that is contradictory! You can't have a 'minimalist' style while 'ripping the reader's guts out in a few hundred words, and repeat it over and over.

Instead, you temper the story, so you save the 'gut wrenching' portion for when it's most effective, rather than spreading it on like Marmalade and jam (or for us New Yorkers, like a bagel and cream cheese).

And yes, I realize that, by 'minimalist' style, you mean 'I only use simple sentences without a lot of extra words, but I don't think that's quite what the whole minimalist style is about. Instead, it's about effective communication, focusing on what's important to the story, rather than what's merely the most graphic and obvious.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

Ah, the good old days, when literary awards went to authors who could tell stories, rather than drowning readers in heavy-handed adjectives!

That's one of my main reasons for using AutoCrit so extensively. I find that, when I examine my adjectives, many are simply unnecessary. Rather than changing one adjective for another, it's better to rephrase the sentence so the adjectives aren't necessary, or better yet, when it's called or, show how something is 'exciting', rather than announcing it to the readers. Let the woman scream, for damn's sake.

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

The first versions suggested by both CW and robberhands both had only the first 'begin'.

Ah, thanks for the correction. I had noticed the smiley, but wasn't sure it was connected to the "begin" or not. (Sometimes I do need to be told something explicitly!)

Switch Blayde

@awnlee jawking

Ah, the good old days, when literary awards went to authors who could tell stories, rather than drowning readers in heavy-handed adjectives!


Adjectives? To me, that's the most misunderstood aspect of showing. When people give examples of showing after a telling statement, it's typically heavy description with a lot of adjectives. That is not what showing is.

awnlee jawking

@robberhands

According to the bubbleheads, isn't the use of adverbs even more criminal than telling, rather than showing?

My verbal skills are at a nadir today - I really struggled with the quick crossword. (On the other hand, I breezed through the week's hardest sudoku and second hardest kakuro, so that augurs well for the lottery numbers I chose earlier.)

AJ

Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

Absolutely. If you want to 'tell' a story about people keeping secrets, then don't ANNOUNCE that they're keeping secrets.

Thanks for your considered answer to my question. I think I asked the wrong question.

I did say a "a story about people keeping secrets". Two of the crucial moments in the story are when I was told facts I'd never known by friends of the family at the wakes after my father's and mother's funeral. I will just tell it as it happened.

I know what I will create. I hope the most poignant thing for readers is I am now able to recount a series of horrors in a completely matter-of-fact tone. Somehow I not only survived all that, but they can now look back at it objectively. That choice may be perfect or awful, but it's what I will do.

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

That's Ross's point. He's trying to move from one unsuccessful storytelling technique to another more apt one, but is having some trouble making the transition.

NO and NO!

I do not consider my storytelling technique in my previous story a failure. Certainly it was not suitable for most of the audience who read it here. It was written for another audience entirely who would appreciate its style. And, I think it was the story which had some obvious weaknesses. If I find the right story for that technique I will use it again, but there'd be no point posting it here.

I am not transitioning to anything new. My new story requires a vastly different style and I've chosen the style I think most appropriate for it.

My question about whether I should consider using showing for my story was really nothing more, "I am certain the answer is no, but I should ask just in case." Your answer to that only reinforced my belief I am on exactly the right track with this one.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

According to the bubbleheads, isn't the use of adverbs even more criminal than telling, rather than showing?

The consensus, among the various literary experts, at least, is that adverbs are a form of TELLING, and that you're better off showing the very things the adverbs describe. Thus adverbs are a shorthand technique that eventually sabotages the entire story by making it weaker, rather than stronger.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@Ross at Play

NO and NO!

Geez! Once again, you're cross-conflating my comments. I NEVER said anything about your ill-fated story. I was merely responding to your suggesting that your previous attempt at telling the CURRENT story didn't seem to work, and you asked whether you could SHOW the actions instead. How does that mean I never listen to your previous discussions?

Again, we're talking at cross-purposes. Every time I say something, you bring in our past history. Every time I critique something you say, you run off and complain to Lazeez, who wants nothing to do with our petty argument, as it doesn't affect his running of the site.

You KEEP insisting that I'm not listening to you, but you're NOT getting my objections. I'm not saying your efforts are wasted, I'm instead saying that how you're implementing them (challenges to find the worst imaginable examples of non-fiction) are misguided attempts of getting to your objective. There are MORE direct ways of achieving your objective without going all the way around the block to arrive at the apartment next door.

Frankly, since ever time we talk, you try to report me to the authorities, I think we need to stop talking entirely. Clearly, you refuse to discuss these private matters between us privately, instead lecturing me in a public forum. And I AM NOT PERSONALLY ATTACKING You, instead, I'm simply saying there's a better way to achieving your goals, and getting people to respond to your requests.

But, as always, whenever you don't get your way, you make threats. Either 'I'll cry and then you'll be sorry' or 'I'll leave home, and THEN you'll be sorry'.

I'm sorry, but as a budding author, you'd do MUCH better if you stopped worrying about grammar and punctuation and learn how to WRITE! Learn to use your words, rather than focusing on what goes BETWEEN the words!

Geez!

Note: Sorry everyone else. This exchange has been a sorry excuse. I tried to take it off line, but Ross refused to have anything to do with it, and this entire spat resulted from an ongoing on-again/off-again argument between us, and has NOTHING to do with this actual thread.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

@ ME
I use a minimalist style. :-)
I plan to rip readers' guts out in a few hundred words

@ YOU
Now that is contradictory! You can't have a 'minimalist' style while 'ripping the reader's guts out in a few hundred words, and repeat it over and over.

My mention of 'minimalist' was a joke.

"You can't," you say. WTF???

Readers will know before starting that my story is only a few thousand words. However uncomfortable reading it will be, they will know their suffering will not last long.

I describe the first 12 years of my life in less than 300 words. I expect many readers to be a blubbering mess by that time. I will be almost relentless with that tone, but there is some comic relief. They will get that when they read the final word of the story!

I do not want entertain readers with this story. I want something that will turn around the lives of some who read it.

awnlee jawking

@Crumbly Writer

various literary experts


ie bubbleheads.

AJ

Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

Once again, you're cross-conflating my comments. I NEVER said anything about your ill-fated story. I was merely responding to your suggesting that your previous attempt at telling the CURRENT story didn't seem to work, and you asked whether you could SHOW the actions instead.

SORRY, I misinterpreted that.

So, my correct response is ...

The first version wasn't really unsuccessful. My muse had grabbed me with an idea. I sat down and allowed it to vomit words until it was emotionally drained.

I knew it had something, but I needed to retreat to my bed. I sent it out asking for feedback without even reading it through once myself.

The feedback I got very quickly was it has no structure and the message is lost. That was undeniable.

Rather than work on fixing the first version, I thought about the message I really wanted, selected a structure (chronological), and started from the beginning again.

* * *

I can see how wires became crossed from the comments I made here.

Is there any reason I should read the rest of your post, given the frustration you felt knowing you;d done nothing wrong?

I WILL NOT read it unless you say it is okay for me to do so - bearing all of the above in my mind as I do so.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Geek of Ages

@Crumbly Writer

The point isn't for a single suggestion to be without flaws, it's only meant to help authors understand how to begin the process


My recollection is that the advice I posted came in the context of a discussion between the various authors I follow on social media, in which the general consensus was that "show, don't tell" was terrible advice, especially for novice writers.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Geek of Ages

@Crumbly Writer

classic passive phrasing, and IMHO, should be avoided


🤔

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

But authors keep complaining that they don't GET the difference between showing and telling.


Personally, I get the difference in general, but don't always agree with you and SB on the details of what's telling vs what's showing.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

Or, putting that into SOL terms, don't write the woman screamed "I'm CUMMMMIIIINNNNGGG!!!!!!!!!!!!".


I kind of agree on avoiding the that specific statement, but I don't at all see the problem in general with including a vocal response.

I agree that the example is in specific, bad form, but I don't at all agree that it amounts in any way shape or form to "telling".

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@awnlee jawking


isn't the use of adverbs even more criminal than telling, rather than showing?


Some adverbs are telling (e.g., "He said, angrily"). So it's not that they're more criminal than telling. Those adverbs are telling.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Switch Blayde

A number of writers here claim to be minimalists. I had to look that up, but the definitions found by Google in connection with creative writing commonly eschewed adverbs.

AJ

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@awnlee jawking

the definitions found by Google in connection with creative writing commonly eschewed adverbs.


I believe minimalist in writing means simplicity without a lot of words. Hemingway was a minimalist because he was a journalist. He made his point with few words. I could be wrong, though.

Mark Twain once wrote at the end of a letter something like, "I'm sorry this letter is so long. I didn't have time to make it shorter." Is that a minimalist? I don't believe Twain was a minimalist. All he meant was that he didn't have time to edit it to make it crisper.

I'm no expert on what a minimalist is, but they probably don't use a lot of adjectives and adverbs. It's probably the opposite of writing purple prose.

Maybe minimalists don't show. After all, showing is painting a scene, allowing the reader to come to their own conclusion. Wouldn't a minimalist simply tell the reader what's going on in the scene? I have no idea.

What you found on Google that "creative writing commonly eschewed adverbs" is not about being a minimalist. It's about choosing the wrong verb or telling rather than showing.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Switch Blayde

Perhaps it's one of those cases where ten minimalists in a room would give you twenty different definitions of what minimalism means.

I previously used it to describe authors using 'telegram English', which is a real pain to read because you have to continually slow down to mentally reinsert missing words.

AJ

Crumbly Writer

@Geek of Ages

My recollection is that the advice I posted came in the context of a discussion between the various authors I follow on social media, in which the general consensus was that "show, don't tell" was terrible advice, especially for novice writers.

Sorry. I agree with that. It's (show, don't tell) is more advice for more experienced authors, as novices often need to rely on the basics.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@Ross at Play


Is there any reason I should read the rest of your post, given the frustration you felt knowing you;d done nothing wrong?

I WILL NOT read it unless you say it is okay for me to do so - bearing all of the above in my mind as I do so.


After having avoided my own thread, because of your throwing a hissy fit, I'm not about to reassure you that you won't throw yet another one.

Repeating myself endlessly, I NEVER said you didn't have a point. My only objection (to the other thread concerning your 'challenges') was that they were misapplied, not that they weren't reasonable. I simply didn't think most of the authors on the forum cared how badly constructed academic writing was, as it doesn't impact their own writing!

Now go ahead and rant, and be sure to ask Lazeez to ban me, yet again, as that's your technique anytime anyone ever disagrees with you, but after sitting out the discussion, I refuse to be sidelined by your childish (and probably fever-induced) squabbling.

I started this thread, not to piss on your party, but because I thought the information might be useful to other authors. You can either participate or not, but you can't dictate others' opinions.

Now please, can we please stop dumping this petty argument on the laps of everyone else in the forum? If you want to cry to management, knock your socks off, but it has NO place in other discussions.

Crumbly Writer

@Geek of Ages

classic passive phrasing, and IMHO, should be avoided

🤔

Hence the "IMHO".

Replies:   Geek of Ages
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

Personally, I get the difference in general, but don't always agree with you and SB on the details of what's telling vs what's showing.

Agreed. Some of the examples weren't ideal, but they're more illustrative of what 'showing' is intended to convey, even if they do cross the line several times.

Geek of Ages

@Crumbly Writer

Adding "IMHO" doesn't make the sentence not break its own advice.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

I kind of agree on avoiding the that specific statement, but I don't at all see the problem in general with including a vocal response.

If it wasn't for dialogue, my stories would have virtually no showing! Dialogue is a handy tool for 'showing' things that people feel through the spoken word, and is often much more effective than the narrator 'telling them' something explicitly.

But again, the "putting that in SOL terms" was meant to be humorous only, not serious in the least.

Crumbly Writer

@Geek of Ages

Adding "IMHO" doesn't make the sentence not break its own advice.

Sorry, I never noticed that. You're right. "Should be" shouldn't be. 'D

Replies:   Geek of Ages
Geek of Ages

@Crumbly Writer

I never noticed that


In my experience, most people who espouse avoiding the passive when writing are woefully unaware of how much they actually use the passive, themselves. It's almost like passive voice is a completely normal way to talk about the world, and has a purpose in discourse and narrative. Which would seem to imply that recommendations to always avoid it are, well, bad.

Now, authors should (IMO) be aware of the difference and of the implications and effects, so they can make reasoned choices about when to use which. Same goes with languages that also have a middle voice.

But blanket statements are ridiculous, especially as they often illuminate an underlying ignorance of the speaker.

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

Sorry. I agree with that. It's (show, don't tell) is more advice for more experienced authors, as novices often need to rely on the basics.


I disagree. Learning it right from the beginning is easier. I'll never get rid of the bad habits in my golf swing because I waited years to take a lesson and had to re-learn.

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