1. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    showing or telling?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Tesoro, May 12, 2012.

    I have always thought that in characterization showing rather than telling is almost always the better option. But today I came across a situation where I would prefer telling. My mc is thinking about the differences between char a and b, for the reader to understand why she's choosing the way she does. And if I would show these differences it would probably take at least two scenes, and Im afraid they would be so far apart that the reader would probably miss the entire fact that a comparison is being made in the first Place. Would it be ok in this situation to simply State how they're different (maybe in a Little more poetic way, but still)???
     
  2. C.B Harrington
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    C.B Harrington Member

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    Don't jump down my throat for using this example. It's just an example most people can understand lol. (I don't really even want to use it.)

    In Twilight.....

    If Bella was sitting on the couch and listing out the pros and cons of Jacob and Edward - would there even be a book?
     
  3. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sometimes telling is better. I don't see a problem with your idea.
     
  4. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    CB: I see your point :), but the story isn't about her problems to choose between them, she needs to make the choice early on for the story to go on. Look at it as she's trying to justify herself for not making the most obvious choice, WHY she's valuating those traits in this character and making that choice I will let the reader find out in a less obvious way (showing).
    Show: Nice to hear. :) It's that I don't want to spend that much time and words on this, because it's not a crucial plot-element. just hint to the reader that she has reasons, and then go on with the story and let the reader discover those reasons for themselves.
    I have been told I explain too much in my stories, and I'm worried this could be another one of those cases. But I'm not sure if the reader would pay attention to what I'm trying to show (the differences between these guys and why it's important to her) if I would do the characterization the normal way. Would they still draw the same conclusions?
     
  5. John Eff
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    John Eff Member

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    It sounds like in this case you'll be telling first and showing later and there's no problem with that. As the story unfolds the reader will understand the reasons for the initial choice, which will either be vindicated or otherwise.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Show AND Tell
     
  7. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Cioé? What should I show and what should I Tell in this case?
     
  8. C.B Harrington
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    C.B Harrington Member

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    Why do you need to show or tell? If you are writing a story where the MC's initial choice causes some kind of consequence that acts as the impetus for the plot, why can't your character just simply chose one or the other, without telling it to the reader?

    Why not just explain to the reader her initial choice through internal monologue or flashback as the story goes on.
     
  9. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    you're right. i should probably just let her choose and
    let the characterization take Care of the rest. I guess I'm just insecure that the reader will understand what Im trying to make them see, but i need to learn to trust it that they will.
     
  10. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Depending on how it's written, I wouldn't necessarily even call this telling. (Not that telling is inherently bad.) You're talking about your character's thoughts, rather than explaining things as the narrator. Those thoughts are happening, so expressing them isn't really "telling" any more than quoting a character's spoken words is. Now, that's assuming that you're following the thoughts along without simultaneously describing and explaining them.

    That is, I'd say that the following is a direct showing of her thoughts:

    She watched John as he moved, enjoying the swing of his trenchcoat. He'd always been so good at clothes, not like Fred with that vintage junk.

    And the following is more a heavy-handed spoonfeeding sort of telling:

    She preferred John's clothes--because of her mother's snobbishness, clothes were very important to her, and she couldn't understand that Fred's thrift-store choices... (blah blah blah)

    ChickenFreak
     
  11. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Interesting point, I didn't think of that - that they could even be considered showing through character thoughts. And good examples, as always :) I understand what you mean.
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Follow the link... (it's also in my sig)
     
  13. BallerGamer
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    BallerGamer Active Member

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    Just to add on to that link because I wholly agree with it, telling is okay, even more preferable in certain situations, if showing is not necessary. I forget what short story it was but there was a scene where it was describing a person getting up for breakfast, elaborately going through his morning, and then going to work. It took up like 2 pages and it didn't do anything of any significance to the story; felt like filler that could have been "told". Just as easily the author could have said "Jack woke up feeling sluggish and not wanting to be anywhere else but his bed. He trudged through his morning with half open eyes and routine motions. After dressing up in his usual attire he drove to work." Or something to that effect.

    Of course showing is always what you should be doing the majority of the time, but there are times where telling is better.
     
  14. raraavis
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    raraavis New Member

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    I think that as long as it's the character thinking and not you/the voice of narration comparing them, then it ought to be fine.

    Basically: Just make it in the voice of the character, not as if it's you writing an essay or pondering about them. In that case, it's a really good idea to.
     
  15. BallerGamer
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    BallerGamer Active Member

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    I've finished a book for class I had to read and it had a great example of when telling can be much more effective than showing. In the scene a group of people inside an asylum sneak outside of their rooms through outside help and are partying inside one of the rooms. The whole chapter "shows" how the party is being played out with dialogue between the characters and the developments that were happening; one of the characters, their ring leader, is not in good terms with the head of the asylum and they feared for his being, so they suggest he escape. He plans on escaping before the workers came in at the morning and decides to get some shut eye. Of course they planned on cleaning up the mess they made, but the partying made them all sleepy. Everyone is sleeping soundly after the party became a success, and the chapter ends with, to paraphrase, "and the workers came in finding them there all fast asleep."

    Sure the novel could have conveyed the workers coming in, throwing in a gasp of surprise and shock and detailing how they reacted by displaying their every different facial expression, but that sentence alone of telling packed in a lot more punch than a whole paragraph of showing could.

    I guess in essence telling is effective more than showing when you want to quicken the pace of a novel.
     
  16. louis1
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    louis1 Contributing Member

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    telling is a useful tool when use right. I don't see a problem here.
     
  17. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I found a way to make these characters appear in the same scene and showed as much as I could of their differences, and at some point I'll have my character reflect on how different they are. If it will come off as telling or not I don't know (haven't written it yet) But I guess I will work on showing the differences between them through the entire novel and hope the reader catches what I'm trying to point out. Thanks everyone for your help.
     
  18. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it's a perfectly good idea to tell in this situation. In fact, it seems like a perfect theme for a sequel (as in scenes and sequels) which tolerate telling much better than the scenes.
    With show and tell, it all depends on the emphasis and the story. If your entire story is about her choosing between those two then sure, write ten scenes showing it all, but if it's a side issue, incidental or a stepping stone, it would be absurd to try and show it, n a classical sense.
     
  19. MVP
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    The best way to learn this, is to read. Read all genres, all authors, they all do it different. The more I read the more I pick up on when to show and when to tell, and why. I don't think there is any one answer to this, its a feel or rhythm, when you are writing and reading. It reminds me of another example I used in the forums before. I was reading a book and the author had a fight scene, and was describing elbows and punches, etc. As the reader, I couldn't picture where the body parts were going. And when I looked back on it, it wouldn't have mattered to the story if the author would have just said - he kicked his ass, and so so had blood dripping out his nose as he stumbled to get up. I would have known who won the fight, without the interfering calamity of random body parts. Just saying.
     
  20. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Good points, both of you :)
     

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