Show Don’t Tell

This aspect is paramount and picked up in so many ways. Clearly, in the written format you can not show with pictures or photos. Also, isn’t telling the tale what a written story is all about?

The actual problem is deeper than this and involves the emotions of the characters within your story. Maybe you noticed in the 1200 words I submitted to a literary agent, she said, “Show don’t tell.”

You are always showing when you use dialogue. As dialogue is two or more people displaying their emotions and attitudes and you experience the dramatic scene.

Telling and summarising:
Early Monday morning before Tom went to work, he was upset about having an argument with Jane over breakfast. Tom’s eyes were filling with tears.

Showing and dramatizing:
Jane slammed the eggs and bacon on the table in front of Tom.
Tom questioned Jane, “Oh so you unhappy to bring me my breakfast now?”
Jane looked at Tom in the eye and shouted, “You’re lucky it isn’t over your head. You could have told me where you were going last night.”
“So I went out to a works party!”
Jane turned around and went back to the kitchen and slammed the door.
Only a minute passed, and Tom heard a piece of crockery smash as Jane must have dropped a plate or cup.
“You alright Jane?”
“Fuck off to work Tom!”
Tom finished his breakfast and went to his car. Tears were building in his eyes, his breathing became uneven.

My Summary of ‘Show don’t tell’:
Writing a story is like directing a film and then writing the description of the characters physical actions but inserting their speech and attitude while speaking. So, if you construct your outline, and then imagine the characters doing the scene and describe their physical motions and insert the dialogue. Be careful as descriptions must be in past tense and dialogue in present tense. I got mixed up on more than one scene.

Writing a novel is all the harder as you have to use your imagination and not have interaction with the characters. Being a writer is more complex as you have to understand your reader. You pick a genre and stick with it so the reader is someone whom you can identify and, in some ways manipulate. As you read, the writer is guiding your imagination and directing your thoughts to places the writer wants you to be.
Of course, you don’t want to dramatise everything as summaries are useful when nothing exciting is happening in a scene.

“Show the reader everything, tell them nothing.” Ernest Hemingway

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