Author Topic: Show instead of Telling  (Read 3387 times)

Offline randy7

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Show instead of Telling
« on: July 08, 2006, 10:40:31 PM »
This is telling.

Donald Radcliffe was always there when any of the staff needed time off. He's the first person everyone in the office turned to, always with a words of ecouragement.

I'm stump as how to show this. I've going through my many books on the subject.


I came up with this.

Stephen approached Donald who stood next to his secretary's desk. "Donald," he said. "I need some time off as my wife is very ill and I have to collect the kids from school."
"Not a problem," said Donald as he gave him a pat on back. "Take all the time you need. The report cane wait a week."
"I can take it home and work on it."
"That's the spirit."

randy7

Lin

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Re: Show instead of Telling
« Reply #1 on: July 09, 2006, 03:14:18 AM »
As far as I can see that excerpt of dialogue does the showing very well.   I mean it doesnt mean you have to do all showing and no telling at all.   Personally I think you just need a balance to bring the reader into the conversation, making him/her want to be involved in there too.  The showing involves the reader more so than telling.  Showing simply means that through dialogue the characters become alive and real in the mind of the reader.   

This always reminds me of the old saying
What I hear I forget.
What I see, I remember.
What I do  I understand. (the reader is "doing" the story  along with the character)

If you get your character "doing" through dialogue the reader will understand about the story and want to read more, whereas if you just tell,  then the reader may lose interest and forget about what has been written.


In my book(yet unpublished - working on it!) I have tried to balance both telling and showing.   A little bit of telling, then some showing through dialogue, then back to some telling.   It all depends on how "colourful" and involving  you want your book to portray its story.   It's rarely necessary to tell us about your characters' emotions. Let their ACTIONS convey how they feel instead.
I hope I have managed to TELL you about the subject in a way which also shows!   I have been told that my TELLING is often so colourful and descriptive that it also is involving!!  Maybe they were just  being kind!!

Lin


« Last Edit: July 09, 2006, 03:18:03 AM by Lin »

Offline Symphony

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Re: Show instead of Telling
« Reply #2 on: July 09, 2006, 04:04:04 AM »
Quote
Donald Radcliffe was always there when any of the staff needed time off. He's the first person everyone in the office turned to, always with a words of ecouragement.


"Donald?"
"Yes, Stephen. What can I do for you?"
Stephen smiled. Good ol' Donald. Always ready to help. Shame everyone else in the office wasn't just like him.
"I was wondering ... do you think I could have a little time off this afternoon? I know it's inconvenient but my wife's ill and ..."
"Say no more, Stephen, say no more. Take all the time you need."


I don't know - there are so many ways of doing this. You've got the right idea, though. This is definitely one for dialogue. You simply have to make sure the voices are right for your characters.

Symphony



Offline Dave King

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Re: Show instead of Telling
« Reply #3 on: July 10, 2006, 10:10:00 AM »
This is telling.

Donald Radcliffe was always there when any of the staff needed time off. He's the first person everyone in the office turned to, always with a words of ecouragement.

I'm stump as how to show this. I've going through my many books on the subject.



The first question that comes to mind is, do your readers need to know this as a general fact?  After all, Donald's easyging policy probably plays a role in the story at some point.  Perhaps your readers only need to see it happening as it happens.

   If you do need to let your readers know this particular fact for some reason (it's always hard to judge a problem without having read the entire manuscript), you could do it through dialogue.  You could do it through the interior monologue of the person who asks for time off, or you could have two other characters discussing Donald out of his presence.

Hope this helps,

Dave King
Co-author, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers
www.davekingedits.com
Dave King
Co-author, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers

Lin

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Re: Show instead of Telling
« Reply #4 on: July 10, 2006, 11:11:31 AM »
Hello Dave,

Nice to have your input here as a published author on this subject.  Keep visiting us we like it!  Thanks for your help

Lin
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Offline Dave King

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Re: Show instead of Telling
« Reply #5 on: July 10, 2006, 01:39:40 PM »
Hello Dave,

Nice to have your input here as a published author on this subject.  Keep visiting us we like it!  Thanks for your help

Lin
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Well, thanks, Lin.  I'm happy to be here.

To tell you the truth, one reason I started posting was to attract attention to my business. I was worried that this would be seen as advertising (which is, understandably, forbidden).  The key problem with independent editing is that writers don't know what they'll be getting until they agree to pay for it.  I felt that, if writers could see the sorts of things a trained, professional editor can offer, they might be more open to the possibility of hiring an editor for their own work.

And, besides, being the resident expert is kind of fun.   :)

Take care,

Dave King
Co-author, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers
www.davekingedits.com
Dave King
Co-author, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers

Lori K

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Re: Show instead of Telling
« Reply #6 on: July 15, 2006, 10:51:14 PM »
Hi Dave,

You didn't mention it but I'm wondering if you're the Dave King who co-authored Self-Editing for Fiction Writers with Renni Brown? One of my favorites...

Either way, it's great to have an editing expert here.

Oh, and maybe we're related-- like cousins twenty-four times removed? I was born in MA ;D

Lori King

Offline Dave King

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Re: Show instead of Telling
« Reply #7 on: July 16, 2006, 07:44:37 AM »
Hi Dave,

You didn't mention it but I'm wondering if you're the Dave King who co-authored Self-Editing for Fiction Writers with Renni Brown? One of my favorites...

Either way, it's great to have an editing expert here.

That's me, fabled in song and story.   :)   And thank you, I'm glad to be here and glad you liked the book.

Quote

Oh, and maybe we're related-- like cousins twenty-four times removed? I was born in MA ;D

Lori King

It's possible.  I was actually born and raised in Pennsylvania and married into Massachusetts.  And on the King side, my great-grandfather came to America from Birmingham in the late nineteenth century.

Take care,


Dave King
Co-author, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers
www.davekingedits.com
Dave King
Co-author, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers

Lori K

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Re: Show instead of Telling
« Reply #8 on: July 16, 2006, 10:34:23 AM »
Hi Dave King:

**Doh** !

You DID mention your book in your post! My poor excuse is tiredness.

I bookmarked your website and when I need editing work, I'll contact you.

I take your book off the shelf more than any other. I constantly recommend it to other writers.

My King family came from some unknown place in England and ended up in New Hampshire then drifted all over New England. I'm having trouble researching that leg of the family tree. Iíll keep Birmingham in mind when I do my research. Thanks!

Offline Amie

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Re: Show instead of Telling
« Reply #9 on: August 19, 2006, 11:09:03 AM »
I've got a question about showing versus telling:

I notice on these boards that a very frequent bit of advice given is that the author should show rather than tell.  And in almost every case, I've agreed with the reviewer, that a particular scene could be improved by showing rather than telling.

However, today I was reading a bit of "Birds without wings", and it strikes me that Louis de Bernieres does a lot of telling (more telling I would say than showing).  And it works beautifully (IMO).  So, what's the difference between a situation in which having a lot of telling works, and one in which it doesn't?  Is it just down to the skill of the author, or is there something more specific to it?
« Last Edit: August 19, 2006, 11:17:40 AM by Saturnine »
"You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet." - Kafka

Lori K

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Re: Show instead of Telling
« Reply #10 on: August 19, 2006, 01:01:48 PM »
I've got a question about showing versus telling:

I notice on these boards that a very frequent bit of advice given is that the author should show rather than tell.  And in almost every case, I've agreed with the reviewer, that a particular scene could be improved by showing rather than telling.

However, today I was reading a bit of "Birds without wings", and it strikes me that Louis de Bernieres does a lot of telling (more telling I would say than showing).  And it works beautifully (IMO).  So, what's the difference between a situation in which having a lot of telling works, and one in which it doesn't?  Is it just down to the skill of the author, or is there something more specific to it?

Saturnine:

This is a great question and I have thought about it as I study more form as I read lately. This is just my opinion:

There has to be a telling mixed in with showing along the way in a good work of fiction. More showing, but snippets of telling in just the right places where your hooked reader needs and wants the information given. Too much will bog the reader down and drag them away from the story. Just enough will make the loose ends connect and keep the pages turning. Comments?

Offline Jackster

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Re: Show instead of Telling
« Reply #11 on: August 19, 2006, 03:42:21 PM »
Saturnine,

Symphony is right - you are definitely on the right track and you are halfway there because you know what telling is.  Like Symphony said, experiment with various approaches and I believe you'll come up with one that just sounds and "feels" right.

jackster

Offline Amie

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Re: Show instead of Telling
« Reply #12 on: August 20, 2006, 01:37:15 AM »
Hiya Jackster, Lori K. 

I'm thinking it has to do with subtlety as much as engaging the reader in the story.  There's a description from "Of Human Bondage" that I just loved (one of many!).  And it's something like (this is hugely paraphrasing/distorting as I can't access the actual text, as our house is a bit of a building site at the moment):  He found her somewhat repellent in the mornings, and regretted their liaison.  By the afternoon she was less so, and by the evenings he thought she was really quite nice.  I really loved that when I first read it.  Maybe because it's a weird thing that many of us have experienced, but there's no particular name for it.  Maugham is another one who does a lot of telling, strictly speaking.  He's one of my favourite authors.  Laurie Lee I seem to recall was another big "teller".  But of course, these are all huge names -- so that's why I was thinking it's down to their skill as writers.  And I was wondering what specifically makes it work, when a less experienced writer cannot generally get away with so much telling.

I'm looking at "Birds without wings" again strictly in this telling/showing frame of reference.  In this case, maybe the reason it works is that he isn't telling us mundane things, he's telling us little special quirks.  So, for example, this sentence comes at the end of a whole page of (beautiful) telling:  "He was fond of inventing riddles and improbable proverbs, and possessed the kind of impatient wit that showed a certain lack of resignation." 

hmmmm.....  or maybe it's because it's interspersed with the story.  So, as Lin suggested earlier, if you've already got your reader interested, you can probably spend some time on telling because by then they're already wondering, "What is this character like?" or "How has this situation come about?" and might be grateful for the shortcut of being told rather than trying to demonstrate everything.

"You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet." - Kafka