One thing I've noticed in critique forums on various writer's sites is that any time there is an instance of "telling" in a story or excerpt, a handful of the responses will say something like "Oh, you're telling here. You need to show us that character feels X." Rarely is there any real analysis regarding whether the "telling" was inappropriate and "showing" would be a better way to go. The advice often seems to have been thrown out (as a sort of 'throw away' comment) because it is very easy to spot telling and therefore very easy advice to give without having to think much about it. The subject comes to mind when, as now, I'm reading some piece of fiction that is weighted heavily on the 'tell' side of thing. Currently, I am reading 2666, by Roberto Bolano. The book is an award-winner. Best fiction book of 2008, by Time magazine. The critical reviews are almost over the top at times in their raves, as critical reviews sometimes are for literary fiction. And even less than high-brow types liked it. Stephen King said of it "This surreal novel can't be described; it has to be experienced in all its crazed glory." I mention the reviews and awards not to argue that the book is great (people will have to read it and decide for themselves), but to show that it is generally considered a great work of fiction by those who review books, make best book lists, and that sort of thing. Personally, I like it as well. So where I'm going is this: the book is heavily weighted in the "tell" direction. And I do mean heavily. Is a character sad? Scared? Amused? Most of the time Bolano just comes right out and tells you: "So and so was amused by this." There are exceptions, but by and large this is how he goes about it. He also quite regularly summarizes entire conversations by simply "telling" you the substance of a particular exchange and not bothering to even play it out in dialog. If Robert Bolano had posted pieces of 2666 in any critique forum I've ever seen, the responses would largely say things like "You're telling here. You need to show us." In fact, I think it is safe to say that the excerpts would be widely panned on the 'show v. tell' basis by most unpublished, aspiring authors. So, then, what gives? 2666 isn't the only example of this by any means. My personal thought on the show v. tell mantra is that you have to think it through a bit more. Just because a writer is 'telling' rather than showing in any given instance does not mean she is wrong. It may be that telling is more effective for a given piece, or at any given place in a work of fiction. Without the additional analysis, the simple, automatic recitation of the mantra to any new writer when they 'tell' in a piece of fiction seems to me to be a disservice. But I suspect some will disagree, so have at it.