1. kablooblab
    Offline

    kablooblab Member

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2011
    Messages:
    91
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    at home

    Can any of you kool kats give me an example of show not tell?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by kablooblab, Jan 21, 2012.

    I sorta get what it means by reading the page on it thats here but can someone give me a few more examples of what it is and how to do it?
     
  2. Berber
    Offline

    Berber Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2011
    Messages:
    146
    Likes Received:
    28
    Location:
    United States
    When someone is telling instead of showing, they are outright stating the condition of something i.e. She is cold. On the opposite side of the spectrum when someone is showing instead of telling they are showing how something is in said condition by evoking a sensory response, describing the feel, taste, smell, sound, or look of the thing i.e. Snot hangs from her nose like frozen daggers, teeth chattering as her chilled sigh hangs in the air, a puff of white dispersing slow like a low hanging cloud.

    Telling: The vase broke.
    Showing: A piercing cry rang through the air as the porcelain vase shattered against the hardwood.

    Telling: She looked sad.
    Showing: Rubbed red, her eyes stared emptily at the floor, curtained by thick bangs that barely hid the deep-set wrinkle in her brow.


    When trying to "show" rather than "tell," focus on the sensory details: sight, smell, touch, taste, and sound. Instead of saying what something is, show how it is so by describing the way it looks or how it feels or what it sounds like, etc.
     
  3. stvn
    Offline

    stvn New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2012
    Messages:
    7
    Likes Received:
    0
    Don't get too obsessive about showing and not telling. As the example above shows, showing can be a lot more verbose at the very least. There are lots of reasons why showing is not the Holy Grail. Think of it as a balance. Trust your instinct on what to "show".
     
  4. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,969
    Likes Received:
    5,491
    Telling: Margaret often condescended to her daughter, offering passive-aggressive advice.

    Showing: Margaret looked up as Jane exited the bedroom, and studied her for a long moment. "That's charming, dear, but did I mention that it's a formal restaurant?"
     
  5. Cacian
    Offline

    Cacian Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2011
    Messages:
    1,907
    Likes Received:
    5
    Telling is like being told/read a piece of News without pictures/images hence the newsreaders and commentaries added for clarity.
    the effect of this: you get to believe what was said to you and on the spot because it was explained to you without your involvement.
    you are the listener and your role is passive.

    Showing is like watching a piece of News like riots on TV but without the voice of the newsreader. Just images that speak volumes.
    the effect: you the viewer would have to draw your own conclusion of what is being shown.
    you are the viewer and your role is active.
     
  6. Kallithrix
    Offline

    Kallithrix Banned

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2011
    Messages:
    394
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    UK
    I'm waiting for cogito to come in with his link....

    Should be here in 5...4...3...2...
     
  7. kablooblab
    Offline

    kablooblab Member

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2011
    Messages:
    91
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    at home
    Lol I figured he would that's why I said I had already read it
     
  8. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Yeah, yeah, here's the link: Show and Tell.

    Here's an exercise where I took it to an extreme: Bitter Fruit
     
  9. Kallithrix
    Offline

    Kallithrix Banned

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2011
    Messages:
    394
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    UK
    Ok, I'm gonna have some fun now...

    AHA!! 'Wordlessly' is an example of telling - we know it's wordless because, well, there's no accompanying words. Although you then contradict yourself by adding a line of dialogue. What's the world coming to???

    Just messin wid ya, Cogito :D
     
  10. Lightman
    Offline

    Lightman Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 11, 2011
    Messages:
    234
    Likes Received:
    8
    Showing and not telling is not the same as minimalism.
     
  11. funkybassmannick
    Offline

    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2011
    Messages:
    836
    Likes Received:
    30
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    The basic idea for "Show, don't tell" is that you aren't stating directly what is going on, but you instead make the reader infer what is happening from your prose. There are some great examples dealing with showing and not telling emotion, but this concept can also be applied to general exposition. (Of course, Cogito's links address both kinds)

    Show: Several pillars held up a balcony that stretched around three of the walls. Her boots scuffed lightly on the lush carpet as she made her way to the throne. She kneeled before him, meeting him eye to eye. He smiled at her innocently, adjusting his still loose crown before jutting out his supple hand for her to kiss.

    Tell: The room was huge. The king was a kid.


    Note that I never use the words: room, huge, king, or kid. Hopefully, you didn't need them to understand.

    Edit: Didn't see Berber also had an exposition example, so disregard my implication that it hadn't been done here.
     
  12. Kallithrix
    Offline

    Kallithrix Banned

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2011
    Messages:
    394
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    UK
    That was not my conjecture - I simply mentioned the letter opener and dialogue tag as unnecessary because they annoyed me. I was actually only referring to 'wordlessly' as an example of telling ;)
     
  13. Kallithrix
    Offline

    Kallithrix Banned

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2011
    Messages:
    394
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    UK
    Don't you have these the wrong way round?
     
  14. funkybassmannick
    Offline

    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2011
    Messages:
    836
    Likes Received:
    30
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    lol, fail. I'll fix it.
     
  15. kablooblab
    Offline

    kablooblab Member

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2011
    Messages:
    91
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    at home
    He shivered, curled into a fetal position. His eyes tightly shut in fear that they would be frozen open. So his tears wouldn’t freeze as they dripped, creating an icicle from his face. So he wouldn't have to see the desolate wasteland surrounding him for miles. So he could pretend he was at home, with Anna. Struggling to bend his now black fingers, he wiped a tear from his cheek. Opening his eyes he looked around with false hope. Still not a soul in sight, still the same as a few minutes ago, the last time he checked. The winds cracked and burned his skin chilling him to the bone, penetrating through him as if he had no body at all.

    Hows this? Its my first attempt at showing but I still don't think I'm doing it right.
     
  16. funkybassmannick
    Offline

    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2011
    Messages:
    836
    Likes Received:
    30
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    This is a great example of showing. See how we don't know what the character is thinking, but we can guess what he is thinking by his actions. He shivers, and that tells us he is cold. He is in a fetal position, and that tells us that he is cold, and that maybe he is afraid or bereft.

    ^This is also showing.

    ^Not that it's bad, but this is all telling. You are telling us his thoughts and fears. Keep in mind that you need to use BOTH telling and showing to write a good story. You need to figure out when it is best to use both, though usually you want to show more often than tell. Here, I don't really see a problem telling us his thoughts and emotions, because it is in limited third-person and you are allowed to "tell" the main character's emotions. A big problem with showing is when you have this kind of description coming from a secondary character. As in, if you added in Anna, the main character here wouldn't be able to read her thoughts, so you wouldn't be able to include the same kind of description as here. If Anna were somehow in this scene, you couldn't say "Anna was really sad about her dad being cold."

    ^Showing.

    ^Telling. Any time you are talking about emotion like this, you are "telling."

    ^Showing.
     
    1 person likes this.
  17. kablooblab
    Offline

    kablooblab Member

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2011
    Messages:
    91
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    at home
    Wow thanks I didn't expect someone to really break it down like that. I gave you some reputation. So you said that I need showing and telling to make a good story, and since you also said I have both in this. Does that make it good?
     
  18. Lightman
    Offline

    Lightman Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 11, 2011
    Messages:
    234
    Likes Received:
    8
    Something to add - I don't think the non-psychological examples in this thread apply. Saying "The vase is broken" isn't telling, and "A piercing cry rang through the air as the porcelain vase shattered against the hardwood" isn't better - it's overwritten.
     
  19. Kallithrix
    Offline

    Kallithrix Banned

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2011
    Messages:
    394
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    UK
    Erm... yes, it is. Saying 'the vase lay in pieces on the floor' is showing that it is broken. I'm not saying that your statement isn't perfectly fine in certain contexts, but it is still telling us your interpretation of the physical evidence rather than just showing us the evidence and letting us draw our own conclusions.
     
  20. funkybassmannick
    Offline

    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2011
    Messages:
    836
    Likes Received:
    30
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    You typically want to "show" more than simply "tell." This is because readers don't want to be fed information, they want to process it. "Telling" is like feeding them the information, but "showing" gives them the chance to figure out what is happening for themselves. Once you start really getting the hang of the difference, try to convert everything to "showing."

    And "good" writing isn't defined by if it "shows" or if it "tells." There are many more aspects to writing, like character development, plot, voice, style, etc. that all come together to make a piece of writing good or not. I think your excerpt shows a lot of potential, though. Keep it up!

    And thanks for the rep :)
     
  21. joanna
    Offline

    joanna Active Member

    Joined:
    May 25, 2010
    Messages:
    429
    Likes Received:
    12
    Location:
    Boston
    Writing a story that contains both showing and telling doesn't guarantee that your work will be interesting or good, but having a well thought out balance between the two will certainly lead you in the right direction. What you want to do is determine where it is most effective to show and where it will work to simply tell. I think this comes with practice.

    In a creative writing class I took, our professor had us write two identical storylines, but one could contain only telling and the other could contain only showing. Then we had to integrate the two into the most interesting and effectively told story we could create. This was good practice. Samples of mine looked something like this:

    telling: Kira was anxious and nervous about her father's arrival, and when he finally did show up in the doorway she didn't know what to say. She noted with dissatisfaction that he had brought out his angry face for the occasion.

    showing: Kira stood in the doorway, shuffling her feet and biting her nails to the quick. Finally her father showed up in the doorway.

    "I'm going to Vietnam and I don't want to hear a thing about it," she said.

    Her father brought his caterpillar eyebrows downwards so that they formed a V on his forehead.
     

Share This Page