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Monday, July 07, 2008

Show versus Tell--when to tell, example four

One reason that people give for “telling” is one that I don’t like, although some of you might not agree with me. Some people use “telling” because they say they don’t have the word count for “showing.”

For example, many category books are shorter, and some authors say they have to tell in order to make the book hit their lower word count.

I don’t agree (but some of you might not feel the same way). While it’s true that showing often has a larger word count, there are more creative ways to show that will match the word count of a section of telling.

Also, a lot of times, the story doesn’t need that section of telling at all. I’ve seen many manuscripts with telling where the information isn’t necessary for the reader to understand and enjoy the story.

Or maybe the information can be snuck with in a phrase or sentence later in the manuscript where it's more pertinent to the current action.

My suggestion is that before you decide to “tell” something, ask yourself or your crit partners if the information imparted is absolutely vital to the story, especially at that moment. You may discover that you don’t absolutely need it. If you don’t need it, cut it. Make your word count with vibrant prose rather than prose with lots of telling.

If an editor later asks you add in more telling, that’s infinitely better than being rejected because your prose is too bland with too much telling.

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