In the beginning, in a land far, far away, there was a writer who was introduced to the concept of show and tell. No, it didn’t involve me bringing a toy and you bringing yours, nor did it cover me showing you mine, and you showing me yours. (winks)
Show and tell, all jokes aside, is nothing to laugh about. It’s the heartache of authors who don’t understand the difference. If you ask ten writers just what show and tell is, you’ll get ten different answers. In that group, you might even get one or two who don’t know what it is, and you’ll always get one that gets it completely wrong.
Let’s get down to the nitty gritty—and yes, I will try to explain this like I’d tell my six-year old.
Telling: Writing that tells the reader what a character is feeling.
Showing: Writing that shows the reader what a character is feeling.
Simple explanations for showing these emotions and I’m sure it could be better, but I hope you get the gist.
What’s the difference between showing and telling, you ask? And why in the heck do we need to do it? Well, getting your reader to “be” in your characters head is very important. It gets the reader to care about your character and to better understand why they make the decisions they do. It’ll also have a reader “feeling” what your character does, rather than just being told. You want readers to picture what YOU are trying to describe what the character is feeling, rather than their own definition of the emotion. For instance, if you’re putting “She was angry,” then you don’t want your reader to picture what their version of angry is, but instead, yours.
YOUR CHALLENGE THIS WEEK:
Go through one chapter of your manuscript and search for emotions: happy, sad, love, confused, angry, mad, etc. Take these emotions and “open them up” by showing them instead. If you get stuck, you can always get some ideas from DESCRIPTIONARI. I do like to refer writers to this site when they are having difficulties, but please make sure that instead of using the examples they give, you find your own. You’re a writer, you’re creative, and you can find the best use of words to describe your own characters emotions. Be original, use comparisons; just open the emotion, dammit, and get to writing.
If you have a story you want to share on the trials of showing and telling, or even a funny or easier way it’s been explained to you, I’d love to hear it. Just post in the comments below.