Contrary to the “Show Don’t Tell” sound bite circulating nowadays, the formula for creating an absorbing novel is a proportionate and pertinent blend of both of these elements – along with dialogue, which often shows and tells in its own right. The trick is to identify which portions of the story work well as scenes (showing) and which are served best by narrative (telling) and where to incorporate either of them in dialogue.
See on www.writeintoprint.com
The “Show, don’t tell” catchphrase really ties me up sometimes. I want to be the best writer I can. Keep my readers involved and part of the action. There are times, though, I just can’t rely completely on showing to make this happen. I have to tell what a person is thinking, give depth to the character by relating their backstory, or explain stuff in a short amount of time that would take way too may pages otherwise.
What I like about the “show and tell” concept is that it fits my need and style completely. It’s the balance. The ying and yang. And it doesn’t have the negative connotation of an exception that “but” always seems to bring to a sentence.
One thing that the article points out is adverb telling, and watching out for the overuse for it. When I first started writing, adverbs were the quick and easy way of expressing something obvious. As I’ve matured, however, I’ve found them to be a missed opportunity to give a scene more depth and flavor by actually describing the idea they are trying to convey. In fact, I think I’ve gone to the opposite extreme of avoiding them completely in my books.
That’s the thing about fiction writing, though. It’s not meant to be a thing of extremes, unless there’s a need to grab the reader’s attention with strong emotion or action. An incomprehensible book that breaks every rule will bomb miserably on Amazon, but so will a formula one that creates something exactly like what some reader read yesterday. Fiction is the act of creating characters that are believable and stories in a voice and a style that is unique and balanced.
Believe me, I tried to follow tried the extreme approach. I thought if I followed all the rules, I would have the perfect book that would sell millions of copies. What I got instead were passages, that, though perfect in grammar and sentence structure, came out stilted and flat, and a bad case of lockup because of all the contradictions. Through this experience, I’ve learned that rules are there to make things make sense, but not dictate exactly what I do. How much or how little I follow is what creates my style, and, right now, I’m going for the instinctive, somewhat rule following method that has me really proud of what I’m writing while standing up to the glances it’s gotten so far. And show and tell, not show don’t tell, fits perfectly within the context of what I’m trying to do and achieve.