1. Fronzizzle
    Offline

    Fronzizzle Member

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2014
    Messages:
    42
    Likes Received:
    20
    Location:
    Taylor

    My newest bad habit: showing AND telling

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Fronzizzle, Mar 23, 2015.

    My writing - especially first drafts - has always been too much telling ("He was frustrated"). Lately, I think I've gotten better at showing ("He let out a snort, shook his head and left the room, slamming the door on his way").

    I started a new project recently, after writing a few chapters I went back and found that I'm now showing and telling ("He shook his head and punched the dash out of frustration"). Even worse, once I noticed I was doing it, I couldn't stop! I stare at a sentence and it feels incomplete unless I add change it around to tell the reader what's going on...even if I show it. Ugh.
     
  2. Swiveltaffy
    Offline

    Swiveltaffy Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 4, 2014
    Messages:
    557
    Likes Received:
    201
    Location:
    Roanoke, TX
    What's the question here?
     
    GingerCoffee likes this.
  3. Mckk
    Offline

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    4,749
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    So delete "Out of frustration" and you're good to go.

    In every book, there needs to be a balance of showing AND telling. You don't just use one. But where showing is more effective, then you don't need the telling usually.

    I don't see the problem...
     
    Unit7 and GingerCoffee like this.
  4. Nilfiry
    Offline

    Nilfiry Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2008
    Messages:
    670
    Likes Received:
    81
    Location:
    Eternal Stream
    It all comes down to timing and setting. Not always will "showing" work. Sometimes, what you are trying to "show" can be vague and misinterpreted. A person can shiver or punch things out of fear, frustration, or excitement. "Telling" may be boring and unacceptable by people, but it is also the most clear cut and to the point.
     
  5. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,605
    Likes Received:
    5,879
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    This^

    One of the things I first put in a sentence then go back and delete are almost all of the filter words and phrases. Does the reader need that or is it redundant?

    "He shook his head and punched the dash out of frustration"

    Frustration is obvious, no need to repeat it.
     
  6. Mckk
    Offline

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    4,749
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    I think if the reader can't tell if someone's punching something out of frustration or excitement, you've got bigger problems than showing and telling. Within context, the punch should be pretty clear - and what ambiguity exists, when it exists within a spectrum of interpretation, can add to the story. Sometimes emotions are complex and cannot be named - if you can describe such emotions by showing, that's skill. No amount of telling could achieve the same.

    "Telling" is not "unacceptable" - it's generally emphasised that one should show because showing is in general actually more difficult. Telling has its place and should most certainly be used - the question is always, "Which paints the scene more vividly? Which conveys emotions more powerfully?"

    The best is when there's a balance of telling AND showing. Telling should be used scarcely, so when it is used, it has great impact. Used in the right moments, telling can be more powerful than showing. Telling the right things can pack a very good punch too. But too much telling gets dull.

    Likewise, too much showing gets dull. Sometimes telling, short and sweet, is the answer, rather than meandering detail that just shows and shows but adds little to how one pictures the scene or feels the scene.

    But where showing is more vivid and the interpretation is really pretty obvious, as is the case with the punch, "out of frustration" is redundant.
     
  7. plothog
    Offline

    plothog Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2013
    Messages:
    639
    Likes Received:
    514
    Location:
    England
    Why do you want to keep the telling?

    Is it because you're not confident that the showing is clear enough? That's not the case in your example.

    Is it because you want to show the frustration internally too? That's certainly valid in some situations.
    Adding an indirect thought is a more 'show' way to do this.
    E.g He punched the dash. Why was Sam such a jerk?

    Is it just because you sometimes like the rhythm of a longer sentence? Often shorter sentences are good, but if a longer sentence feels better here, there's all sorts of things that you can add that the reader doesn't already know.
    E.g. He shook his head and punched the dash, causing a shower of a sweet wrappers to fall off onto his lap.

    I'm not sure I like my on the fly example, but it does expand a little on the visuals of the setting and it indirectly says a little about character. (He's messy and isn't a healthy eater.) Use those extra words to get your sentences doing double duty.
     

Share This Page