1. BillyxRansom
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    BillyxRansom Active Member

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    Transforming "telling" into "showing"

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by BillyxRansom, Aug 30, 2008.

    Have you ever gone into a writing project, and upon looking at it after a time, you realize that you've done a lot of exposition, and very little actual visual writing? How do you get over that? How do you re-write what you've only "told", so that instead, you begin to "show" it? Is it a good idea to take what you've told, and expand it so it reads more vividly? How do you go about doing so, if you like that method? If not, do you just re-write the section entirely?

    Please help! :confused:

    Thanks.
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I always think of an example when I want to get rid of sentences that tell. I think of a girl laying tired in bed. Telling the reader that would be something like: "She lay tired in bed". Whereas showing would read: "Her eyes were surrounded by black rings, and her mouth drooped slightly downwards.

    As the writer, I know what I'm trying to say, but the same can't be said for the reader. I always try to put myself in the shoes of a reader. Or better yet, have someone else read it and see if they understand the scene in the same way you do.
     
  3. Scattercat
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    Scattercat Active Member

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    That depends; is it traits and characteristics that you've "told" rather than "shown"? Or is it backstory and history that you've spent time filling in?

    If the former, then the prior post's advice is good; describe the traits that such a descriptor usually involves and go from there. (Black rings = tired. Facing something dangerous = brave. Taking extra cake = gluttonous. And so on in that vein.)

    If it's backstory, well, that's trickier. On the one hand, you've got more leeway with that sort of telling. Look at Tolkien, for goodness' sake. Otherwise, you have two options:

    1) Use flashbacks to describe the events as they occurred, or rearrange the temporal flow of your story to allow you to describe events in action.

    2) Have the characters make reference to the events in various ways, such that over time the reader learns everything they need to know about the history that was necessary to understand the story.
     
  4. ciavyn
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    ciavyn Senior Member

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    One thing that has helped me is to read an author who does very little telling, and lots of showing. One off the top of my head is Jodi Picoult.

    Write it first, then go back in and get rid of your "telling" statements, your adverbs, your "to be" verbs were appropriate. Another method I've used is to try to pair down my word count by a third or a half. Oof, is it painful, but when I'm done, I have weighed each word, and used powerful phrasing that enables me to "show", instead of "tell."
     
  5. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I wrote an article that addresses this issue with respect to Characterization. Maybe it will give you some ideas during your revision process.

    Article: Direct vs. Indirect Characterization

    Hope it helps.

    Terry
     
  6. adamant
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    adamant Contributing Member Contributor

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    Whoa, I never realized that was you. Suppose I didn't look at the name, or didn't bring the two together. I added that site to the Writing Resource Links sticky in this part of the forum. That website has been quite useful, and I remembered that as a good example for characterization along with some others.
     
  7. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    I've found that in my novels I switch back and forth between the direct and indirect methods, mainly due to what kind of scene it is. When it's one that is "slower" and builds up tension, then i like to indirect it, but when it's a action scene where lots of stuff is occurring, like a fighting scene of Kate against some barbarians and a giant reptile, i tend to stay indirect to keep the flow going.
     
  8. Ungood
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    Ungood Contributing Member

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    Sometimes you need to tell someone something, sometimes they need to see it. Just like anything.

    Finding that balance in your work is very important.

    But knowing when to tell and when to show comes from review and revision on your part as your story goes from an original concept to a finished work.

    Others have given some good advice on this for as far as they can, but nothing replaces a sound and solid review from someone who has seen what you are talking about in the context that you have written it.
     
  9. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Adamant,

    Thanks for the compliment. I am glad the articles at Fiction Factor have proven useful for you, included those of mine they've published. That's wjy I wrote them:) And yes, I agree there is a lot of good information there.

    Terry
     
  10. Last1Left
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    Last1Left Active Member

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    I don't know if this will work for you, but it worked for me when I had a similar problem. I was kinda confused about how much to show and how much to tell. So, I wrote like ten short stories all in third person objective. The point was to focus on showing and concision. I think it worked quite well. When I returned to writing in third person limited, I was able to balance between show and tell easily.
     
  11. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    of course, you know, if third person is a problem for you, there is nothing wrong with writing in first person. Heck, Lee Child has written two of his Jack Reacher books in first person while the rest are in third...
    there's no clear hard line about it at all.
     

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