Tips for Showing over Telling
As writers we’re told, “show don’t tell.”
“We know, we know!” we respond, but do we? As a multi-published author and a long-time book reviewer, I hate to admit there is a lot of telling out there.
Some of it is okay. Readers don’t need detailed descriptions on everything in the story. Saying ‘Sally felt remorse,’ may be preferable to ‘Sally’s gut tightened, she’d known it was wrong, but yet, she’d chosen to do it. How she wished she could reverse time.’
Whichever is better at the time is up to the writer. I’d like to give you a tip on quickly identifying when you’re telling when you think you might be showing.
In previous years I figured the words felt, smelled, touched, heard, listened, appeared, etc. were showing words. To an extent they are, but they are also redundant and make the writing fatty. Other showing words name the emotion outright, embarrassed, angry, empathy, etc.
Below are two mini-scenes from my book Sex-O-Matic written three ways—the last is best and what appears in my book.
An example of telling: I was embarrassed, so I closed the box and went back to the table to eat.
This is a bit better: I felt heat warm my face. I closed the box and returned to dinner where I tried to act nonchalant.
This is best: With burning cheeks, I closed the box. After returning to the table, I stabbed a ravioli.
Here’s another example from my story Sex-O-Matic:
Telling: Fidgeting, Marv looked uncomfortable.
Showing somewhat: I watched Marv’s Adam’s apple bob as he swallowed then he rolled the magazine into a tube and bounced it on his thigh. He was obviously uncomfortable.
Better: Marv’s Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed. Shifting his weight in the chair, he rolled the manual into a cylinder and bounced it on his thigh.
Tip: When you are done with your manuscript, use your word processor to do a search and destroy job on words that tell. Trust your readers to intuit your characters’ emotions without being told. On my website I have a list of redundant and showing words. Feel free to download it and good luck!
Get Vee Michaels latest story Sex-O-Matic at Breathless Press. Visit her website, www.veemichaels.com to see her entire collection of fun, sexy stories or shoot her an email at email@example.com to receive a free story.
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