On writing: Show, not Tell

Over at the Speculative Fiction Writers of Singapore Googlegroup, Dave Chua shared this link from io9.com, on five situations where Telling is better than Showing.

1) Your characters all know something your reader doesn’t
2) There are too many mysteries
3) You have too much insane backstory
4) You can think of a more entertaining way to tell than to show
5) It gets in the way of the emotional potency of your story

Didn’t get the article. My shortcoming, cos I don’t quite understand the difference between Showing and Telling.

I’m aware that the rule-of-thumb is “Don’t just Tell your readers something; Show them!”

Just now, I decided to look it up.

Here’s an explanation from an author, Beth Revis:

It was cold. = Telling
Amy shivered in the cold. = Showing.

She adds:

The difference between boring showing and good showing is in the emotion.
Amy shivered in the cold. = Boring showing.
Amy shivered: the cold seemed to reach all the way through her skin and into her heart. = Good showing.


I got it instantly. One of the easiest and clearest explanations I’ve come across.

This Yahoo! Answers entry, by Vernan, is less concise but equally clear:

When you say, “The rose is beautiful.”, you are basically telling.

What you should do is to show why and how the rose is beautiful. It could about the physical appearance or maybe something deeper like an experience.

It could be something like…

I have seen how our garden rose grows and bloom flowers, but I have not seen it this beautiful. Its petals are pinkish with a strain of reddish dots. The dew on its petals emits a strange glow of colors as the morning sun passes through it. I have never thought that something in the world could be this beautiful, perhaps it is because Anna gave it to me when she was alive, before I drove our car straight to the lamppost. looking to the rose makes me remember her and our happy moments. I almost touched it, but I was afraid the touch of my hand, a foreign object could destroy its beauty.

Now the io9.com article made more sense.

Oh, I realise my blog posts tend to Tell than Show.

Perhaps blogging (as a writing style) tends to be that way.


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