“Show, don’t tell” is a great advice. You-as the writer-need to make the readers see, feel, smell, touch…You want them to understand the characters and be immersed in the story without spelling everything out them. You want to them to see that your character is smart by the things he does or says. You don’t just tell them he is so smart. Or you might, but you also prove your point by showing that he is smart.
“But Show, Don’t Tell” is easier said than done, especially when it comes to writing novels. I can’t tell you how many novels I put down because they tried to tell me a million things, while also showing them to me. And ideally, no matter what kind of writing that you do, you have to balance the two.
There are many screenplays that just tell. Remember the movies where characters talk all the time, and never actually move their butts to take action about anything? The movies that bore you to death? Yeah- the screenwriters just told things, and the director went with it.
But with fun screenplays, the writers do a good job of balancing what to tell and show. But of course the screenplays are written for the screen, and everything will be shown by the actors. If they want to show the progress of a romance, they put on a good song and show us what the actors do together instead of giving us dialogue.
And this is exactly what I do when I write a screenplay. Sure, I sweat over lines and details, but sometimes it is more effective to choose the song with the right lyrics and let the reader/viewer get the message. But I can’t take advantage of music when I’m writing the novel. Well, I can- to motivate myself. But I can’t give my audience a soundtrack to go with it (although that would be pretty neat). I need to sweat over the thoughts, setting, and scenes- all the time. There’s no shortcut. This is a pretty hard thing to do.
Yes, I watch a lot of movies and pay attention to a lot of scenes. I also analyze novels on how much and how they showed and told. I keep my fingers crossed, and keep working on my first draft where I try to entertain, engage and make readers feel. But it is a tough road. Wish me luck.
How about you? Do you write fiction? Do you have problems balancing showing and telling? Please let me know in the comments.