1. Tall and Weird
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    Tall and Weird New Member

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    I'm a teller not a shower! Any suggestions?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Tall and Weird, Dec 29, 2009.

    By 'teller' I meant one who tells not someone that works at a bank and by 'shower' I meant one that shows not a fall of many objects.

    Now that I've cleared up the possible misinterpretations of this thread's title - does anyone have any suggestions or exercises that can help me?

    Telling not showing is one of my greatest foes and I would welcome anything that could defeat it.
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Avoid first person until you master showing. The temptation is too great to summarize feelings. Stick to third person, and describe behaviors without drawing conclusions about what they mean.

    For example, don't say John was depressed. Instead, say John slouched in the chair and rested hius chin on his chest. Say he sat staring straight ahead as the room darkened into night. Don't say he was angry. Say he slammed the door. Say he crushed the styrofoam cup in his hand and swore as steaming coffee spilled over his wrist.

    Practice scenes were you don't describe any feelings, sensory perceptions, or thoughts, and only describe observable actions. Those scenes may be TOO "showish" for good fiction, but you'll have a better grasp on how to add more show to the balance.

    Show and Tell
     
  3. writewizard
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    writewizard Contributing Member

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    Thank you for the advice, Cog. I was going to say exactly what you said - but in different words of course. And, of course, practice, practice practice. I'd say "practice makes perfect" but that is a lie in the world of writing. ;)
     
  4. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    There are times when telling is better, so don't get wrapped up in trying to show all the time.
     
  5. Yoish
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    Yoish Member

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    What I try to do for showing versus telling, is as I write I identify my "telling." Once I do that, it's easy to think to myself "how can I show this happening?"
     
  6. Unit7
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    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just for future references, I don't think you will have a problem with using Shower/Teller. Most people on here will instantly know what you mean and the idea of a bank teller never came into their minds. :p
     
  7. Phantasmal Reality
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    Phantasmal Reality Contributing Member

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    All I can say is this: There are no 100% catch-all rules when it comes to showing vs. telling. You have to learn when each is appropriate and be able to recognize when to use them in your story. There is no shortcut or blanket advice that will help you do that. The only advice I can give you is to practice, and to pick up some of your old books by your favorite authors and start studying. See how they handle the showing vs. telling problem and use that to help define your own balance. Happy writing!
     
  8. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    As someone has already mentioned, there is no one single way to do this. You will have to cultivate a few different skills to achieve the goal you wish.

    My suggestion for one of the things you can do is:

    Not all telling happens through the use of adverbs, but all adverb use is without a doubt telling.

    Run your story/chapter/manuscript through the search function of your word processor and have it search for ly. This will highlight all your adverbs. It will catch one or two words that are not, but such is life.

    While I don't personally condone the 100% avoidance of every single adverb as though they were plague ridden rats, just like the aforementioned rats, their populations must be kept in check and at a minimum.

    Where your search function has shown you your adverbs, think of other ways to describe more visually, more precisely whatever it is that the adverb was telling sloppily and lazily.

    or...

    Where your search function has shown you your adverbs, think of other ways to paint the scene and the actions of the characters so that the reader garners a true visual picture, and thus is more imbedded in the story rather than the lackluster manner in which adverbs skip over details and areas of opportunity for the sake of brevity.

    ;)
     
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  9. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    "Telling" a story is what writers do, really. "Showing" is only a device good writers use in order to accomplish their storytelling. So, everything in the writing lives on a continuum between "telling" and "showing."

    As a reader, the first piece of "telling" I notice that could be improved (by "showing") is anyplace where the author sums up a tidbit I could easily (or even sometimes with some effort) summarize or conclude for myself.

    For example, if I added here that the reason I said what I just said was by way of explaining what I meant to say just in case it wasn't clear (that would be way too telling for the point that I hoped you would deduce on your own).

    The more you are able to capture the "feel" of your story and convey that to your reader in the manner in which you hope it will be received, the more risk you take that your reader will misunderstand your intentions. The best writers I read learn to take that risk often (and do so effectively) by using imagery and prose and other devices in ways that I'm able to "feel" the story myself.

    Think author's imagination and reader's imagination dancing together in tandem. The more enigmatic the outcome, there will be fewer readers who "get it." More "telling" allows for greater reader "access," which will leave some readers underwhelmed by the reading experience.

    Best way to get this picture is to read a wide range of stories and figure out why some are too vague and obscure for your own tastes, while others just feel way too unimaginative and ... well, "too telling." Then you can study a little of both to see how they accomplish this end result.
     
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  10. Cosmos
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    Cosmos Contributing Member

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    I agree with what was said here. Not in every case is telling bad; in many cases too much showing drags the story on and bores the reader. But people generally do more telling than showing and that's what you've indicated is something you're encountering. I generally tend to reread a story with the idea of writing something in a "showing" manner and taking out the "telling" elements in it if they are unneeded. Visualizing it also helps, as it can give you the image you need to draw upon.
     
  11. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well said.
     
  12. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    maybe this little blurb will help out

    I'm not going to claim it's a perfect example but maybe it helps to delineate a bit...

    Whoever built this room had used a scale of size that went beyond anything mankind had seen before. What would mankind do with technology like that? Could they learn to harness it in peace or would another fresh round of wars ensue?

    Kate shook her head. “You know the answer to that, Kate…”

    “What was that, Captain?” Tomson had started down the slope with Loving.

    “Oh nothing, Doctor,” Kate smirked sardonically. “Just talking to myself…you know I’m a few bricks shy of a load.”

    [now what do you picture here? Earlier, the doctor had doubted Kate's sanity. A gentle barb at the thoughts...but picture the woman's actions]

    Tomson snorted. “Okay, Captain, I’ll admit I was wrong to doubt you. I’m sorry.”

    “The doubting isn’t what bothered me,” Kate’s voice was light but without cheer. “It’s the fact you spied on me for Reyes that’s an issue.”

    [again, not a perfect example but it SHOWS Kate's feelings about the Doctor spying on her for a superior officer...]
     
  13. MightierThanTheSword
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    MightierThanTheSword Member

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    I'm no expert on show-vs-tell; in fact, I'm still working on it myself. There are times to show and times to tell, but to work on your showing practice for when you do need to show things, something I find helpful is to find any kind of TV/film scene and imagine writing it (or actually write it). Screenwriters can't tell you anything; they have to show you everything. So trying to put a scene from a movie, cartoon, TV show, or anything like that to words will give you a feel of how to convey things just by showing.

    Another trick is to try imagining your scene as though it were a scene from a TV show or movie. You have to be a visual person to be able to do this (if you are an artist, sketching "comic" panels might help you), but if you can see it play out in your head you know how to write it so that other people will see it clearly in their heads, too.

    Use lots of descriptive words that aren't adverbs. Instead of saying "She walked quickly down the sidewalk," try "She hurried down the sidewalk," or even "Her feet pounded against the cold cement of the sidewalk as she hurried along to her car..." Don't write paragraph and paragraphs of description (that will get boring), but throw in a few words here and there with the action to keep the picture fresh in the reader's mind.

    I hope this advice was of some help to you
     
  14. rory
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    rory Contributing Member

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    Same problem here. A suggestion is to try writing a script of sorts. When writing for a completely visual audience, you have no choice BUT to show everything.
    I've only just started writing scripty stuff. It's a lot of fun and has really helped me identify the whole 'show vs. tell' which was all kinda misty for me before.
     
  15. MelissaL
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    MelissaL Member

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    For me telling a story is so much easier then showing it. Sometimes I see myself as more of a storyteller then a writer. Coming up with stories is eaiser then writting it all on paper.
     
  16. Tall and Weird
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    Tall and Weird New Member

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    I guess it only takes three things to become a shower not a teller - practise, practise, practise. :)

    I was inspired to write this little rhyme though.

    Describe the scene with words aplenty
    Write it plain and it stays empty

    Thanks all!
     

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