Author Topic: When is it ok to tell?  (Read 1528 times)

Offline Pik

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When is it ok to tell?
« on: January 30, 2012, 05:26:48 AM »
Hi everyone.

I've tried looking for this specific topic here and couldn't find anything. So if it's already been raised and answered, I'd be happy to be pointed towards the thread.  :)

I'm just wondering whether there are some guidelines as to when it's an appropriate time to tell rather than show? I get that showing is infinitely preferable to telling in most situations, however, I've also read that in some instances it's better to tell.

Thanks in advance.

Offline Vienna

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Re: When is it ok to tell?
« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2012, 05:44:59 AM »
for example

http://www.mywriterscircle.com/index.php/topic,40342.0.html

or

http://www.mywriterscircle.com/index.php/topic,16688.0.html


there's quite a bit about this on the boards
« Last Edit: January 30, 2012, 05:46:30 AM by Vienna »
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Offline Pik

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Re: When is it ok to tell?
« Reply #2 on: January 30, 2012, 05:54:41 AM »
Awesome, thanks!

my search fu is poor.  :-[

Offline Skip Slocum

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Re: When is it ok to tell?
« Reply #3 on: January 30, 2012, 05:56:56 AM »
The balance between show and tell is going to come down to your style of telling a story. If showing is so much better, you'll still need to tell portions of your story to showcase the contrast.

Telling is going to be communicating large amounts of information, quickly, and in very few words.

Showing is going to be a lot slower with a closer focal.

Here's one way of looking at a good balance between S-a-T . Imagine a story as a beaded necklace. The actual bead is a scene with character interaction, dialogue, secrets, and killing  ;D this is where you will want to 'Show'.

Now, the space between the beads (the string) is your characters going somewhere else to talk about killing more people. It is less important and therefore you give it to the narrator and he says -'They all took a plane to Ohio'
In seven short words, you got the entire cast to Ohio.

Now its time for another 'Show' bead.

 ;D Yes-maybe?
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Offline Pik

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Re: When is it ok to tell?
« Reply #4 on: January 30, 2012, 06:08:19 AM »
Yes :)

Thank you.

Offline bonitakale

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Re: When is it ok to tell?
« Reply #5 on: January 30, 2012, 09:30:02 AM »

Here's one way of looking at a good balance between S-a-T . Imagine a story as a beaded necklace. The actual bead is a scene with character interaction, dialogue, secrets, and killing  ;D this is where you will want to 'Show'.

Now, the space between the beads (the string) is your characters going somewhere else to talk about killing more people. It is less important and therefore you give it to the narrator and he says -'They all took a plane to Ohio'
In seven short words, you got the entire cast to Ohio.

Now its time for another 'Show' bead.


Oh, that's very good. May I borrow it?
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Offline C.M.

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Re: When is it ok to tell?
« Reply #6 on: January 30, 2012, 09:58:56 AM »
Telling and showing have a major effect on the pace of the story. Good stories vary their pace. When you wish to speed things up, do more telling and less showing. When you want to slow things down, more showing and less telling. Particularly in action scenes, when you want the reader racing ahead, eager to see what happens next, do more telling. Another good place for telling is in your very first paragraph when you are trying to reel in the reader and get them to commit to the whole book. Too much showing in the first paragraph can bore a reader who is not yet committed to the story.

If most of your reading is of stories written more than 20 years ago or if you are getting advice from writers who learned to write more than 20 years ago, consider increasing your telling. Attention spans have shortened over the past few decades. Contemporary readers demand more concise stories than readers preferred in the past. Just my humble opinion.

Offline Laura H

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Re: When is it ok to tell?
« Reply #7 on: February 01, 2012, 09:33:26 PM »
The balance between show and tell is going to come down to your style of telling a story. If showing is so much better, you'll still need to tell portions of your story to showcase the contrast.

Telling is going to be communicating large amounts of information, quickly, and in very few words.

Showing is going to be a lot slower with a closer focal.

Here's one way of looking at a good balance between S-a-T . Imagine a story as a beaded necklace. The actual bead is a scene with character interaction, dialogue, secrets, and killing  ;D this is where you will want to 'Show'.

Now, the space between the beads (the string) is your characters going somewhere else to talk about killing more people. It is less important and therefore you give it to the narrator and he says -'They all took a plane to Ohio'
In seven short words, you got the entire cast to Ohio.

Now its time for another 'Show' bead.

 ;D Yes-maybe?


That's brilliant, Skip. 
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Offline Skip Slocum

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Re: When is it ok to tell?
« Reply #8 on: February 01, 2012, 09:39:04 PM »
 ;) thanks.
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Offline Joe Mynhardt

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Re: When is it ok to tell?
« Reply #9 on: February 02, 2012, 01:46:45 AM »
When showing will just be too boring.  :D
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Offline Chandara5

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Re: When is it ok to tell?
« Reply #10 on: February 02, 2012, 10:44:08 PM »
That's good skip. Thank goodness I don't live in Ohio, huh? ;D

For me, it all boils down to how you want the reader to feel. The higher the intensity = show.   ;D
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Sam Cooper

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Re: When is it ok to tell?
« Reply #11 on: February 03, 2012, 07:26:53 AM »
Pik, there is good advice in the above posts. Don't get too caught up in this show/tell balance. It can make you afraid to write a sentence. Show/Tell is a balance which comes from practice practice practice. That you are questioning one means you are aware of the other and so on your way to finding your balance.

Don't make it a block.

Tell places a moment - Show defines it.

Offline Pik

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Re: When is it ok to tell?
« Reply #12 on: February 03, 2012, 05:12:54 PM »
Thanks all for the good advice.

Sounds like practice is the key.