Thursday, July 17, 2008

Let the Sun Shine in...

Showing vs. Telling!

Joni’s going to write a blog.

Joni sits at her desk, pencils, paper, stapler and paper clips surrounding her. A deep sigh leaves her mouth as she sits contemplating, ready to tap on the keys preparing to write today’s blog.

Aha! I think I’ll write about SHOW vs. Tell! In the first sentence I told you what Joni was going to do. In the second sentence I SHOWED you.

Showing is more specific in terms as it lays out the picture for you. General terms are good when you need to tell when something is happening that is brief in the story. Whereas showing moves the story from point A to point B.

To tell a story one only needs to say, Mary went to the store. To help in getting the picture across to your reader you need to learn how to write and SHOW them the story.

Mary grabbed her purse, hurried out the front door to walk down to the corner store. The screen door slammed as her mother called from behind, "Don’t forget the bread."

Think of yourself reading a book. You don’t start at the end, you begin at the first page. You take it slowly and read one page at a time so you can grasp the entire picture.

Taken out of context, you can speed read a page here and there but do you fulfill your journey of enjoyment? Showing and telling can give you the same information. But with the showing the reader gets to savor each and every morsel.

Creating a mental picture for the reader is important if you care for them to read to the end. Children love fairy tales where they don’t need a lot of the baggage that comes with imagery, they get picture books. But novels or short stories need to tap into the mental cinema of the reader’s mind.

Telling is fine for trivial things like it was a stormy day. If the storm is essential to moving the story along or part of the immediate scene then showing should be done. Don’t over do it with the imagery so no one says you’re padding your work. Showing should come as a natural flow to you.

I was sad when my dog died.
This is me telling you how I felt.

I was miserable when my dog died. It hurt so much I could just spit. I never expected him to die and now he’s left me alone and lonely for companionship.
This is me padding the telling.

Today I was distracted when the puppies in the park were playing frisbee, it reminded me of my Skippy. My friend for life or so I thought, until he contracted a deadly virus that took him from me. No longer do I look at his bowl the same way as it still sits on the floor near the door.
This statement gives more specific details, without telling how I "felt". You can read in my words that I miss him.

The point of "showing" is not to drown the reader in a sea of details. Instead, you should pick out only those details that matter.

Give your reader something to hold onto.Let the sun shine down on your work and give them a tale of beauty. Save the telling for the hairdresser.


Anonymous said...

This is something I do need to learn!
What a useful post, Joni!
Thanks a lot.

((((Joni)))) -->I'm showing, not telling. =D


Raven said...

So it's show & tell? I remember that from kindergarten. You bring something you treasure in a paper bag. Then you reveal it and tell why it's special.
The first step introduces the image. The second step triggers associations which lead to an emotional response.

I still like that game. I do it all the time to my girls when I get back from Borders.

Nice blog, Joni.


June said...

Well stated, Joni!

Telling can also make a powerful affect on the reader if you use it rarely and effectively.

For example, if your writing does a lot of showing in a scene, and at the end the character starts crying, you can use telling in a simple yet powerful sentence.


[and at the end:]

Sally wept.

Take care,