Welcome Guest Search | Active Topics | Members | Log In | Register

SHOWING verses TELLING Options · View
Posted: Saturday, March 26, 2011 5:40:34 PM

Rank: First Person Smartass

Joined: 2/8/2011
Posts: 345
Location: The suburbs.
What’s the difference between

From an exercise on writing Action Scenes...

He bent over, groaning in pain. " Damn Blondie why the Hell did you punch me in the stomach like that?"

The next thing Buffy knew, he had his hands around her ankles and she was dangling over the edge of the railing.

Oopsie ~ this is TELLING! I can see why the author did it. She would have needed to add a few more paragraphs just to describe everything happened, but Action Scenes should be SHOWN not TOLD.

-----Original Message-----
I see that advice a lot, and the odd time I understand it, but not often enough, or how it’s actually done. How do you SHOW that scene above, not tell it? I get the two confused – to my addled brain sometimes showing seems to be telling…and vice versa. Could you give us an idea of how it could look if shown, not told?

The reason this was TELLING was the fact that this author didn’t SHOW us step by step, how Buffy got into that position, she simply TOLD us that it had happened.

When a writer is pressed for word-count and time, Telling happens. In fact, TELLING is perfectly okay in a repeated action, but its good manners to detail that action the first time it appears so the reader has a nice clear picture in their mind of what that action looks like.

SHOWING is about Mind Pictures...

When you write a story, you are making a MOVIE for the reader. Telling is when you plant a cue – rather than illustrating a scene.

He bent over, groaning in pain. "Damn Blondie why the Hell did you punch me in the stomach like that?"

The next thing she knew, <-- This is a cue!) he had his hands around her ankles and she was dangling over the edge of the railing.

You have to guess what happened from the time he was bent over and groaning in pain to her dangling over the railing. ANY time you have to GUESS how a character did something, you’ve been TOLD, not Shown.

Many writers don’t realize that they are writing CUES instead of Pictures, because that's what they see in a lot published mainstream books: "Monkey See - Monkey Do."

"Well if they can do it - why is it Wrong?"

A LOT of published authors get away with TELLING through Cues, because they are making up for it in some other way: Drama, Dialogue, Atmosphere, Science, Magic... Unfortunately, a lot of new writers miss this.

Case in point, most Romance novels TELL -- a Lot. They don't bother with detailed action of any kind because Romances are NOT being read for their ACTION, they’re being read for their EMOTION, their Drama. Romances as a rule, make up for their lack of Action with detailed emotional Drama -- and the Emotional Drama in a Romance is Very detailed.

On the other hand, a hard-core Sci-Fi has almost no character drama at all. What it does have are a lot of poignant and tragic scenes showing the influence of Science on humanity and Action scenes full of human struggling, if not outright space battles.


If the above scene had been TOLD, it might have looked something like this:

He bent over, groaning in pain. "Damn Blondie why the Hell did you punch me in the stomach like that?"

Buffy grinned and spoke in her sweetest voice. “Maybe because you deserved it?”

Angel looked up with his eyes narrowed. “I deserved it?” His lip curled. “Is that so?” His entire body tensed, straining the seams in his coat.

Uh oh… She took a half-step back.

Angel came from his crouch in a rush of hard hot muscle and barreled into her. Using his momentum, he bear-hugged her in an iron grip around the waist as though she’d been a football player on the opposing team, and shoved her backwards to the wall.

Buffy’s high heels skidded unpleasantly on the stone flags, then the back of her knees hit the wall and she tipped backwards. “Oh shit!” She grabbed onto his coat’s lapels and stared into his face from less than a kiss away.

Angel grinned, showing the curving length of his long incisors. “I deserved it huh?” He shoved.

Buffy tipped back into open space, and squealed in surprised. She knew the fall wouldn’t kill her. She’d survived far worse, but God, it was embarrassing.

With faster than human reflexes, Angel caught her around the ankles.

Buffy found herself dangling over the edge of the railing, with her skirt slipping down toward her waist. She groaned. She just knew his eyes were on her pink cotton panties. She just knew it.


DISCLAIMER: As with all advice, take what you can use and throw out the rest. As a multi-published author, I have been taught some fairly rigid rules on what is publishable and what is not. If my rather straight-laced (and occasionally snotty,) advice does not suit your creative style, by all means, IGNORE IT.

Morgan Hawke
Purveyor of fine Smut.
DarkErotica.Net ~ My Website
DarkErotica Blog ~ My Writers' blog

"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."
Albert Einstein

Users browsing this topic

Forum Jump
You cannot post new topics in this forum.
You cannot reply to topics in this forum.
You cannot delete your posts in this forum.
You cannot edit your posts in this forum.
You cannot create polls in this forum.
You cannot vote in polls in this forum.

Main Forum RSS : RSS

Powered by Yet Another Forum.net version (NET v4.0) - 11/14/2007
Copyright © 2003-2006 Yet Another Forum.net. All rights reserved.