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Monday, June 16, 2008

Show versus Tell, example seven

From contest entries and critiques that I’ve done, I’ve noticed that often people don’t quite understand what exactly is “showing” and what exactly is “telling.” So, I’m doing this series to give numerous examples so that you can see for yourself the various kinds of “telling” that can occur in your own manuscript, and suggestions for fixing it.

Amy’s eyes were the size of her forgotten hard-boiled egg. “That’s amazing!”

So amazing that it had ruined Jeannie’s peaceful breakfast. She had a half-brother in New Orleans that she’d never even known existed before. He had written and wanted to meet her, now that their feuding parents were both gone.


The second paragraph is “telling.” Granted, it’s short—which might be a good enough reason to keep it as is—but there’s also a more vibrant way of “showing” this with dialogue.

Amy’s eyes were the size of her forgotten hard-boiled egg. “That’s amazing!”

“Amazing enough to ruin my breakfast.” Jeannie toyed with her cold toast.

“What are you talking about? I always wanted a brother—”

“Half-brother.”

“Whatever, half-brother. My point is, now you have one without having the annoyance of growing up with him.” Amy winked.

Jeannie pulled his letter close to her again to look at it. “I wonder what it was like, growing up in New Orleans.”

“What I wonder is why he wants to meet now, why he felt he had to wait until both your feuding parents were gone. After all, you’re both adults.”


All the information in the “telling” paragraph is now “shown” in the dialogue, which is more interesting for the reader and doesn’t pull her out of the story world with a paragraph of “telling” narrative.

2 comments:

  1. Wow--now THAT is an excellent example; the best I've seen yet.

    Thanks.

    GG

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks! I"m glad it was helpful.
    Camy

    ReplyDelete

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