Show versus Tell, example eight

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.

She admired the rows of Salvatore Ferragamo shoes, her only extravagance.

The italicized phrase is “telling.”

Now before you start screaming that it’s short (after all, it’s only three words), think about it—if you eliminate as much “telling” from your manuscript as possible, the vibrancy of the writing as a whole goes up a notch.

Instead of “telling” the reader about how Ferragamo shoes are her only extravagance at that point, save it for when it’s vital to the current action. For example:

She slowed as she passed the Neimann Marcus shoe section. Oh, that black leather one …

No, she shouldn’t—she’d bought a pair of Ferragamo’s only two weeks ago. She had twenty-one pairs in her closet already.

But she’d just gotten paid. And she could honestly say it was her only extravagance.

In the example, the information is part of her thought process as she justifies buying a new pair of shoes rather than tacked on as a section of “telling” in the narrative.

However, because the section of “telling” is only three words long, you could leave it in, especially if the information is vital for the reader to know for the current scene. It’s up to you.