1. TableTop.Paper
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    TableTop.Paper Member

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    Showing, not telling.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by TableTop.Paper, Mar 3, 2009.

    I think everyone had this feeling at some point when they write any story and I just need some outside thinking or reassurance really.

    When I write what I can, I realize that at times it feels lacking in detail. Such as in I'm telling instead of showing. I also know you shouldn't compare yourself to another author but when I think of my favorite books I remember such vivid images and I can't help but wonder if my details are not enough.

    I know that for a majority of the visuals are the readers own imagination and too many details and too often can be quite tedious (I remember skipping entire pages because of that). I just want to find out if any of you have tricks or an idea on how to realize that you have enough details and imaging in your story. Because I know what the story and scenes look like but the reader doesn't and all they have is what I write. I am just afraid that my story will be a failure due to lack of imaging.

    Perhaps it's just me stressing or perhaps there isn't enough but I know that semicolons and details are my biggest weakness. Any ideas or tricks?
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Showing has little direct connection to the quantity of detail. Mostly is has more to do with revealing information through reactions of characters rather than directly.

    For example, you can tell the reader Joe was angry. Or you can show the reader Joe standing suddenly and pacing, or his eyes narrowing and jaw tightening, etc. Sometimes showing takes more words than telling, but other times the right reaction cam convey in a dozen words what a full paragraph of eplanation fails to nail.

    Trust the reader to be able to fill in the blanks, so instead of a photoreaqlistic painting of something, hand the reader a sketch.
     
  3. RIPPA MATE
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    RIPPA MATE Contributing Member

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    it's charactor building PEOPLES!!!

    ahem...
    cogs right btw.
     
  4. TableTop.Paper
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    TableTop.Paper Member

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    Thanks, I'm just afraid I'm only seeing images in my head because I know what they're supposed to be. That's exactly what I need to herel; The reader has an imagination too. Thank you :)
     
  5. Aeroflot
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    Aeroflot Senior Member

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    Hm. I'd say to explain your detail from the outside-in. First make sure the person knows that the character is in a house, and in the bedroom in particular. Next, mention that the character is sitting in a chair, sleeping in a bed, laying on the floor. Once you got that type of detail sorted out, move inwards. What is the most important feature of the house or room? Mention important items like people besides the main character, any guns on tables, or big flashy items. Now that all the essential details are visible, then begin to add in extras, like if there's a window in the room, a sofa, porn mag, etc. Though maybe porn mag might be up there with guns in importance to mention :) Depends totally on what you want to emphasize.

    The way you display your setting is totally up to you. I'd say that you should mention only what is important to the scene and what is important to mention right now that will end up being vital to the story later on. If someone's got a rocketship in their backyard and the last scene is Johnny Two-by-Four flying to the moon, then it's a good idea to mention that rocket.

    What words you use should correspond to the importance of the described object. So work from the outside-in and see what is most important.
     
  6. pacmansays
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    pacmansays Senior Member

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    Well in literature telling is more permissable than in film where action is very important. If you're telling I think it would be good if you allow it as a perspective and don't give information too easily...

    'I hate John because he's self obsessed' would be telling without really interesting the reader much
    'John's entire attitude boasted of overconfidence and bigotry, merely hearing him speak would fill me stomach with hatred' would be telling but in a lot more interesting and detailed way.

    lol sorry if i was no help :S
     
  7. TableTop.Paper
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    TableTop.Paper Member

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    Oh, it's all quite a bit of help. I think I was mainly just scaring and stressing for no reason. I'm trying my hardest and I just can't get the feeling that I am not good enough and focus on the details and descriptions far too much.
     
  8. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    SHow vs Tell is simply this: Instead of stating facts, what are the behaviours, body reactions, and what do people see, hear, taste, and smell.
     
  9. Howdy
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    Howdy New Member

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    I know exactly what you mean. Everyone else seems to have tackled this notorious "show don't tell" rule, so I won't even put my slobber on it.

    If you want, and really there is no pressure, you can either message me a sample of your writing, or point out a place I can find a sample on this forum. I would be more than happy to read it and see if I have been transported into your world.

    However, if you do this, keep in mind I will not be home for about 6 hours. When I come home, if I find anything, I will be sure to read it.
     
  10. TableTop.Paper
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    TableTop.Paper Member

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    Thanks, Howdy, but I have yet to review anyone's work. I'm rather busy writing this project and it tends to make me just want to play video games all day long after :p

    Yeah, I know what the difference is just that I can't tell if I add enough visuals for the reader and I keep comparing myself to Tad Williams >_< which is probably not very healthy. lol, I'm over it for now, thanks to all you guys.

    I'll be sure to post a page or two when I am allowed to have some advice and comments if I am doing it right. Which shouldn't be too long, as they ask for 10 000 words for the proposal and I'm at over 9000. After that, comes reviewing it so that'll take a while.
     
  11. moriartanian
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    moriartanian New Member

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    Personally, I just give the minimum of details. In characters, I want people to envision my character by what he says and does, because I know that my evil may not look like evil to a reader, and my good character might look bad to another person.
     
  12. Cheeno
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    Cheeno Contributing Member

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    Whatever you write, make sure it's relevant and moves the story on. Anything superflous, cut. Practise makes perfect!
     
  13. RIPPA MATE
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    RIPPA MATE Contributing Member

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    or rather, write what works.
     

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