I post this as a new thread, instead of on the existing one I planned, in deference to the wishes of one regular contributor here who has decided to avoid that particular thread.
I wish to express some observations and doubts on this topic which I suspect are representative of those of use here who really do not have a clue.
There's a suggestion here that 'I saw her crying' should be replaced with 'She cried'. I can see that 'saw' is functioning as a 'filter word' and the suggestion results in changing a sentence that 'tells' to one that 'shows' … but is it "better"? I do not know, and I don't see why!
It's possible I would choose to make the same change myself, but my reason would be to achieve the same result with two less words, not a better result.
My assessment is one sentence has a construction which tells while the other shows - but both are showing the character of the female equally as well.
I am totally prepared to accept the principle that showing is generally better than telling as an 'article of faith', and one which cannot be proven. I've seen enough advice recommending that to conclude it would be unwise for me to not proceed with the assumption it is true – whether or not it can ever be proven, and whether or not I can understand how or why that is so.
I have some limited anecdotal evidence to support that view. I was reasonably satisfied with the first version of the first story I ever attempted to write – but I had not ever seen expression 'Show, Don't Tell' then. I cringe when I read that version now. I received some feedback from others along the lines it had some good elements, but I had a group of main characters who were difficult to tell apart. That was spot on. I would struggle to find more than a few adjectives describing ways in which those characters were different to the others.
I started writing a new version, sadly stalled for a long time, and tried to use dialogue instead of narrative when that seemed practical. I also selected which characters would say said which types of things, for example, having one make most of the timid statements, another the risk-taking statements, and another the cynical jokes.
I find my new version, as far as I've managed to go, much more engaging, and those who have read both have said that too. I tried to use show instead of tell, I at best did so only partially, and the result seems much better to me.
I am still very unclear about the extent to which showing should be preferred over telling.
I have seen plenty of clarifications here stating that showing is definitely not a universal good: that telling is better for some situations. I'm a long way from being able to make those kinds of judgement calls. I suspect there are many times I cannot even detect something is telling, much less know how to revise telling to replace it with with showing. :( Still, I think I should continue doing the best I can.
So, to the experienced authors here who've been trying to help newer writers acquire this important but difficult skill, I very much appreciate your efforts but they haven't really succeeded in penetrating my (thick) skull.
I have some questions about the mechanics of what you do, why you do it, and what, if any, evidence exists supporting beliefs it does improve writing. I expect the best you could do for some questions is to provide examples of choices you have made in the past and your reasons for those choices.
Please try to be precise in distinguishing between facts and opinions. Dominions Son has recently complained that some tend to phrase statements in ways suggesting they are facts, when they are merely strongly held opinions. I can see his point! Personally, I find the weight of supportive anecdotes is enough to proceed as if I accepted them as fact, but I think others should be able to assess the "evidence" when deciding whether they choose to accept the well-intentioned advice you make.
Although I have no suspicions your advice is incorrect, I strongly suspect some authors would be best served by not focusing on this point too closely?! If the time they can devote to writing is limited and their goal is for many others to gain enjoyment from their ideas, surely some are better off completing more stories than working on refinements to fewer stories which only improves them marginally!
So my questions about showing vs telling, and I'll surely have more later, are:
-* Why is 'She cried' better than 'I saw her crying'?
-* Can you identify situations where telling is necessary, or better than showing?
-* It's not always obvious to me when something is telling. Can you describe any tests you use in making that assessment?
-* Can you suggest any ideas for a "Showing Lite" that may suit some authors better? Are there some simple things that can achieve most of the improvements possible from showing? I guess generally preferring dialogue over narrative would be one of those.