Show not tell...

(21 Posts)
TelephoneTree Tue 06-May-14 13:59:44

Can someone help me get to the bottom of what this means please??
example sentences would be much appreciated!

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Tue 06-May-14 15:43:22

Guessing here but instead of 'telling'
"I love baking, there's something about creating a smorgasboard of food to tempt the fussiest appetite. The preparation and the enticing aromas just draw people in. You'll find me in the kitchen most weekends just magicking up those recipes my grandmother made when I was a child" blah blah blah

to 'show' you'd write something like.
"In my spare time I try out old family recipes like sour dogh bread and winter vegetable soup. I prefer kneading by hand to using a breadmaker providing I start early enough. We source ingredients locally whenever possible. For a family reunion last month I catered for 22".

That's a feeble example but facts not fluff.

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Tue 06-May-14 15:44:03

Ha dough not dogh.

kungfupannda Tue 06-May-14 18:53:46

It's not really about facts rather than fluff - it means allowing the reader to understand something by the way you describe it, not by having it explicitly outlined to them.

So, instead of writing 'Jane was afraid that there was a monster under her bed' you would write 'There was a hollow feeling in the pit of Jane's stomach, and her throat felt tight. She wanted to get out of bed, but she couldn't get the image out of her head - a cold, clawed hand wrapping swiftly around her ankle and dragging her down to an unimaginable fate."

Or instead of writing "It was a sunny day in May" you would write "The sun was low in the sky, slanting through the thickening leaves. Faded blossom scattered the ground, a remnant of the April that lay just a few days behind."

Writing that is mainly tell will read like a summary of events, rather than a story. But if you try to cut out all tell, you may find that your writing becomes a bit artificial and OTT. Sometimes you need a bit of tell.

TelephoneTree Tue 06-May-14 20:43:57

Thank you so much - now I totally understand how you do this in adult language but what about writing for young children when you have so few words to work with due to the length of the book???

mental block….!

schmalex Wed 07-May-14 05:40:43

I try to think of writing in scenes rather than telling the reader something explicitly. Ie if your character is shy, don't tell the reader that. Let the character behave and talk that way while doing something.

schmalex Wed 07-May-14 05:41:44

I try to think of writing in scenes rather than telling the reader something explicitly. Ie if your character is shy, don't tell the reader that. Let the character behave and talk that way while doing something.

schmalex Wed 07-May-14 05:47:17

Kungfu has shown a good example.

I don't think it changes much when writing for children. You may need to simplify the vocabulary a little but the principle is still the same. I try to think of my characters acting out scenes, like in a movie.

schmalex Wed 07-May-14 05:48:17

Kungfu has shown a good example.

I don't think it changes much when writing for children. You may need to simplify the vocabulary a little but the principle is still the same. I try to think of my characters acting out scenes, like in a movie.

schmalex Wed 07-May-14 05:57:09

Kungfu has shown a good example.

I don't think it changes much when writing for children. You may need to simplify the vocabulary a little but the principle is still the same. I try to think of my characters acting out scenes, like in a movie.

schmalex Wed 07-May-14 05:58:05

Kungfu has shown a good example.

I don't think it changes much when writing for children. You may need to simplify the vocabulary a little but the principle is still the same. I try to think of my characters acting out scenes, like in a movie.

schmalex Wed 07-May-14 15:12:41

Aargh, bloody phone!

Appletini Wed 07-May-14 15:21:58

One example I've found helpful is communicating that someone gets the bus - rather than announcing this fact, you can refer to them having a bus pass in their bag. Or something might happen on the bus. You only need to include it if it's naturally part of the story.

TelephoneTree Wed 07-May-14 20:58:54

This is a brilliant help, thank you!
Keep coming with the examples please!

kungfupannda Thu 08-May-14 07:37:10

Did I show a good example, schmalex? I'm not sure you've made your position clear on that grin

Okay, some examples of writing for children:

(Tell) Sam was angry.
(Show) Sam threw his fire-engine at the wall.

(Tell) Sam and the cat liked each other.
(Show) Sam held out his hand to the cat. The cat put her tail up and purred.

(Tell) The clown was really funny.
(Show) The clown pulled a pair of pants out of his pocket and blew his nose on them.

Any good?

shouldbeelsewhere Sun 11-May-14 22:37:22

I struggle with show don't tell as well.
I think this is an example of both
(Tell) Jo was excited to go to school
(Show) Jo ran up the steps onto the school bus and bounced into her seat. Her sister was disappointed because she was so busy chatting she forgot to wave.

TelephoneTree Sun 11-May-14 22:47:40

Thank you everyone!

This really is very helpful!

PenelopeLane Wed 25-Jun-14 05:45:01

To me the place it matters the most is in character development and when describing what someone's like. To steal an example from an Agatha Christie I read recently (who does this very well) a character wasn't ever described as spoiled and entitled, instead she is seen talking about how much she needs an elderly relative's money for make up and going out, because she must do these things and can't afford it otherwise.

keatsybeatsy Thu 26-Jun-14 10:46:51

It has become one of those expressions that gets trotted out but doesn't always work. I read so many novels that I have to give up on because the 'showing' is so obvious, there is so much description, so much detail, that it's quite cringey.

I think a lot of creative writing classes really bang on about it, so a great many books are coming out that are almost identical in how they tell the story - show, show, show. Sometimes, you do just need to tell.

I like dialogue.
I don't like description that much.
I would like books to suit me please [smile.]

keatsybeatsy Thu 26-Jun-14 10:47:16

smile - I can do smileys, I really can . . .

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