Saturday, December 4, 2010

Show and Tell: A Comparison (Book Version)


Ooh! Show and Tell! Just like at school!

No, not really....

Can I show you my piggy I made?

Isn't it so cute??


*coughs* Yes, but that's not what we're--


Okay, how about a deer?

Also cute. But it's not mine.


Listen, I'm sorry but I think you have the wrong idea--


Fine, how about this tree trunk that looks like Barad-Dûr??

Note the similarity:


*coughs louder* Okay, that's very nice, but what I'm trying to talk about is the question of whether you should you tell the reader something, or whether you should show them.

So... what should you do?

Well... you could, in a paragraph, tell the reader all about your MC. His issues, his problems, his feelings on this or that, his likes and dislikes, etc.

Or you could illustrate them.

Instead of saying outright that this character and that character hate each other, you can describe them giving each other black looks, etc. If two characters are the best of friends, instead of just saying so, include actions that prove it. Let the reader observe, and not merely be told everything.

Describing and showing, using action, adds depth to a story, I think. And it gets the reader way more involved. Showing also makes for great characterization, because you're seeing the actions/mannerisms of the characters. It adds personality, methinks. Ha, I just realized that. *snort*

Check out this little paragraph:

   He screamed in his sleep, and then awoke to Sir Robert shaking him. His knight was irritated because it was the middle of the night, and Chance felt bad about accidentally waking him up. 

Not too bad, but it could be relayed through action, like this, maybe:

   "No!" he screamed, thrashing about.
   Suddenly Chance’s eyes flickered open to see Sir Robert’s face quite close to his. “Wake up, boy!”
   Chance shuddered, “I’m sorry, Sir Robert.”
   “Have a nasty dream, did you?”
   Chance nodded, and Sir Robert released his shoulders. “My most sincere thanks for waking me for a dream.” Chance’s eyes fully adjusted, and he realized that the light filling the room was from the moon. Oh, it was still in the dead of night! Chance winced as he heard Sir Robert grumbling fiercely under his breath.

The second paragraph is a little better, because you can see what's happening, instead of being told. It's more engaging. 


Instead of saying that Sir Robert was irritated, I showed him being irritated. Instead of saying that Chance felt bad, I described him wincing as his knight grumbled angrily. You determine from both of their actions how they feel. No need for boring statements!

You could turn a single sentence of narration into action:

   His father was growing tired, and so Chance took over the work for a little while, though his father protested that he was fine.

Aside from the above sentence being very clumsy, what's told there comes alive in the sequence below:

   Come that afternoon, William had worked to furiously to get everything done that he was near dropping from exhaustion. When, after repairing a bent hook, he laid down his hammer and crossed the shop for his water skin, Chance pumped the bellows to set the fire blazing again, and swiftly reached for the hammer his father had laid down.
   “Chance!” sputtered his father in mid-gulp.
   “Yes, father?” Chance asked mildly, placing the hardy on the anvil.
   “What are you doing?”
   “Giving you a moment to rest. You need it.”
   “But-”
   “Father,” Chance turned pleading eyes to him, “I can make nails. That’s all I’ll do, alright? But if you don’t stop and catch you’re breath, you’re going to kill yourself.”
   He could see in his father’s eyes that he was grateful for the relief, even though the way he was muttering denied it. But he seated himself on a bench by the open doorway and leaned his head back against the wall, closing his eyes wearily.


Instead of stating everything that happened, I let the reader experience it, so to speak. Showing this sequence instead of stating what happened made it more real.

Sum it up to say, see if you can't turn narrations into action, and/or dialogue that the reader can become engaged in. It makes for a far more interesting story.

4 comments:

Amaranthine said...

Yeah, and it pads your word count. ;)

The Director said...

I know right! lol.

Jake said...

Woh. That tree trunk is eerily similiar. :O

Lainie said...

You, daughter dear, rock :)
Love you!