Showing vs. Telling

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Moni12
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Showing vs. Telling

Post by Moni12 » March 2nd, 2012, 11:51 pm

One of my weak points is that I know what it means to show, but I struggle with the how. What are your best tips on changing your telling to showing?

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Rebecca Kiel
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Re: Showing vs. Telling

Post by Rebecca Kiel » March 3rd, 2012, 9:37 am

Take a good look at Nathan's post on this. He does a nice job of breaking this down.

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http://rebeccakielpages.blogspot.com/

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polymath
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Re: Showing vs. Telling

Post by polymath » March 3rd, 2012, 12:07 pm

Telling comes in a couple varieties: summary and explanation, Showing comes in at least five scene essentials: action, sensation, introspection (thought), conversation (dialogue), and emotion. The former were known to the ancients as, respectively, diegesis and exigesis recitals; the latter as mimesis or imitation of scenes — imitations of a credible, engaging reality secondary to readers' everyday alpha reality.

Tell opens narrative distance. Show closes narrative distance. Narrative distance is the degree of separation between narrator voice and character voice. Close distance orients to reports of the immediate persons, times, places, situations, and attitudes of an unfolding dramatic action. Open distance orients to reports from persons, times, places, situations, and attitudes remote to a dramatic action, typically from a narrator at a removed distance from the immediate circumstances of a dramatic action.

Though tell is disparaged, like with all writing, and life, elegant variety keeps a drama interesting. Opening narrative distance signals upcoming transitions from viewpoint to viewpoint, time to time, place to place, situation to situation, and attitude to attitude. Closing narrative distance signals upcoming high tension dramatic actions, dramatic pivots — the ever-important turns of fortune and circumstances that pique reader curiosity and keep outcomes in doubt until a bitter end.

Wide open narrative distance adds a touch of variety and tension relief from intense close narrative distance. An artful narrative runs a gamut of narrative distance, wide open to intimately close. One caution against switching narrative distance is to complete a dramatic action unit before transitioning abruptly. Frequent, abrupt transitions create an unsettled narrative point of view and narrative voice that keep readers from engaging in the all-important participation mystique reading spell.

A complete dramatic unit contains at least one discovery of new information and one reversal of circumstances as a consequence of the discovery, or vice versa, at least one reversal that leads to a discovery, or both at once as a consequence of an insuperable struggle to accommodate a want, desire, need, or goal, etc., short term or long term, minor turn or major turn, for a scene or an act or an overall saga.
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Moni12
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Re: Showing vs. Telling

Post by Moni12 » March 3rd, 2012, 9:57 pm

Thanks for the help! Any tips on how to show?

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polymath
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Re: Showing vs. Telling

Post by polymath » March 4th, 2012, 12:03 am

I recoomend first of all considering a change of terminology, not show but imitation. An imitation captures a scene's essence. Sensations loom large: visual, aural, olfactory, tactile, gustatory, and emotional. Sensations establish ambiance. Colors, lighting, the scale of place, a sense that time has moved through objects and places and people.

Take a cornfield, driving though a vast farming combine, eight feet tall green stalks of green leaves glinting in a noonday sun with golden cornsilk tassels crowding the roadside, feeling like one is in the midst of an endless vigorous cropland. What's the car like? An MG Midget with leather bucket seats, convertible top down, music blaring, competing with rushing winds. The smells of fertile silage and musty earth. What's the driver doing in the middle of an endless corn field? On the way from present-day Chicago to the rustic past where a will is about to be read and the driver is the executrix, nothing to inherit but a property burden to be distributed to others. And along the way, rediscovering roots.

Sensations are causal, eliciting thoughts, nonvolitional thoughts reacting to sensations, effects, that then evoke volitional thoughts. A memory of eating sweet buttered corn on the cob at a family reunion spread out in the homestead yard, on plank tables, picnic games, three-kegged races, sack races, wheelbarrow races, deviled eggs, fried chicken, and watermelon, sweet tea and pies and cakes and cookies and handcranked ice cream. Maybe she's not ready to let the homestead be sold to strangers. Maybe she will buy it herself.

She passes a gas station she remembers being run by a mom and pop family. She turns back, but it's now a chain convenience store run by an indifferent and apathetic clerk who manages to hold a conversation like he's listening to a classroom lecture, and the glass eight-ounce ice cold Orange Crush she had a desire for isn't even in the soda cases. Nor the Cracker Jacks on the snack shelves she favored in her youth. It's all plastic inside. She feels disappointment, a harbinger of things to come. Foreshadowing.

Action, sensation, introspection, conversation, and emotion. That's what captures the essence of a scene imitation.
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Watcher55
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Re: Showing vs. Telling

Post by Watcher55 » March 5th, 2012, 10:47 am

WROT (Watcher's Rule of Thumb) - If you want to bore your audience don't let them see what you see.

First, an example:

TELL - The picture burned, and Scott was angry.

SHOW - Yellow flames flowed up from the slick surface of the captive instant. The edges and corners of the precious paper curled. A blister rose just above Lacey’s head. Her innocent face retreated from those of Mom and Dad. The blister burst and released a puff of yellowish smoke. The perfect moment was banished to the realm of fickle memory. The logjam in Scott’s throat shifted and he roared at the lonely sky. (OK, still needs work but you get the idea)

Words are the pallete, but they are grey until they share each other's light. Words are flat until description, action and emotion give them depth. I figured out a trick when I shouted at the ceiling one day because I was wrestling with the same question (remember the days when Show and Tell was a fun thing to do at school?).

When I edit I look for sentences like the Tell above. When I find one, I ask myself: Does that (in context to the sentences around it) evoke what I saw, and Scott felt and DID? Does this sentence really paint the picture of what I saw in my head and my heart before I released it from the pencil?

More advice: My team always loses at Pictionary, but art and art history/appreciation have become an integral part of my research. The two avocations are not so very far apart.

Gypson
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Re: Showing vs. Telling

Post by Gypson » March 5th, 2012, 11:18 pm

Telling: Henry was rude and impatient. Rita felt embarrassed by his outbursts.

Showing:

"How much longer is this going to take?" he bellowed. "We've been in this goddamn line for fifteen minutes!"
"Henry, please," Rita murmured as the heads started to turn.

ladymarella
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Re: Showing vs. Telling

Post by ladymarella » March 8th, 2012, 8:27 pm

Something I've been thinking about a lot lately.
I just finished reading 'The Potato Factory' by Bryce Courtenay. Good story and all, but it didn't take long until i got utterly frustrated by his writing style. So much was just told, in narrative form, no action, I felt annoyed, wanted more character development and the like. It just wasn't well written, andd in my mind that csame down to showing vs telling. WAY too much showing; so much infact, it's made me extremely determined to not let that creep into my own writing.

How i am now trying to do that is try and frame each scene around an incident, think of new and fun ways to go about writing it, so something will happen. In the scene i am currently writing, one girl gets a splinter in her foot; not really an integral part of the scene, but I feel it is important to make the scene different, stand out, and not fall into a lull of having her sitting there yet again waiting for her lover.
I think it's especially important to find fresh ways to tell scenes, which I beleive then pulls you out of telling rather than showing. Great reminder for historical fition, when it can so often become one ball and dinner party follwed by antother..... got to thinks of ways to make it fresh, and that's by inserting strange incidents and detials to make the world come alive
Currently composing a sprawling family saga set in 19th century England
The world may be divided into people that read, people that write, people that think, and fox-hunters.'- William Shenstone,

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Hillsy
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Re: Showing vs. Telling

Post by Hillsy » March 9th, 2012, 11:02 am

Check out this episode of [the awesome] Writing Excuses on puppetry as it pertains to writing

http://www.writingexcuses.com/2009/08/3 ... tte-kowal/

There's a whole mass of applications to showing over telling in there

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dios4vida
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Re: Showing vs. Telling

Post by dios4vida » March 12th, 2012, 1:49 pm

I have issues with this, too. So bear with me as I tell the story of how I'm learning to show more and tell less.

I just learned what a "to be" verb is at the BransforumFest. (I know, I should have figured that one out a long time ago!) Everyone says to look for "to be" verbs in your writing, then to replace them with stronger verbs. I never knew exactly what I was looking for. What are they? Felt, saw, heard, smelled, tasted, among other things.

So I started looking for them. Guess what? THEY'RE EVERYWHERE! I tell all the time because I say "he saw this" and "he felt that" instead of describing what he saw (and how he saw it, as in how he felt about it and interpreted it) or describing how he felt rather than just saying he felt it. The examples above are excellent for this.

So that's my advice. Look for the "to be" verbs. Chances are you're telling there when you could be showing.
Brenda :)

Inspiration isn't about the muse. Inspiration is working until something clicks. ~Brandon Sanderson

Moni12
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Re: Showing vs. Telling

Post by Moni12 » March 12th, 2012, 2:26 pm

Thanks for the help everyone! dios4vida, last week actually I started looking for those words and highlighting them so I could get them fixed. It's a great method!

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Re: Showing vs. Telling

Post by isabellearcher » March 13th, 2012, 8:00 am

Moni12 wrote:Thanks for the help! Any tips on how to show?
yeah...tips are so informative....

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