The show vs tell argument

Published by captain kate in the blog captain kate's blog. Views: 90

I discussed this a couple days ago with a published author, who's at the top of the list on Barnes and Noble's military science fiction charts, and he gave some good advice. He said that a good way to tell if you're 'telling' instead of showing is to see how many times you use the word 'had' in your paragraphs. Now, there is always going to legitimate times you'll use the word, but after much thought, and scanning through some paragraphs I've written, that there's some truth to the statement.

Not my best writing, because I'm still polishing and editing but here's a difference. The first is pure telling:

Markham hit the ground and his people scattered as another mercenary went down and they panicked. Johnson watched him, and swore under his breath before grabbing the Colonel’s leg and pulling Markham to the ground. A bullet whizzed by, it’s passage ripping a split second clearing in the rain.

and here's the second one:

Markham stood, with jaw agape, and watched his people fall to the ground, and he started to shake. Johnson cursed, and swore under his breath before grabbing the Colonel’s legs and pulling the other man to the ground. The soldier’s armor slammed into the rain soaked ground, and a splash of mud sprayed over Johnson’s face, the black and red muck running down his cheeks and dropped off his pointed chin. A bullet, it’s passage close enough the former Special Forces man could hear the ripping sound of the shell passing through the air, passed overhead and the two men buried their faces down into the mud.

A big difference about the descriptiveness and more active verbs, which helps differentiate between telling vs showing also. Try checking your writing for the word 'had' a lot and see what you find. Do you find showing or telling? If it's pure telling, then rewrite the sentence and find a more active verb that can change the sentence.
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