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Show don’t tell?

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  #1  
Old 02-06-2016, 11:00 AM
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Default Show don’t tell?


Is telling really so bad?

I’m just practicing again with something new and want to tell the reader about parts of my characters childhood. I’m beginning with her memories of certain events that happened. They do relate to what is happening in the story but I can’t get it out of my head that everyone says ‘Show don’t tell’

Most of what I want to write would involve flashbacks to events and I recall someone commenting on one of my old posts saying that my character seems to ‘remember’ a little too often.

Any advice?

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Old 02-06-2016, 02:19 PM
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That's not what 'show, don't tell' means.

It's mostly filtering you want to avoid.

http://writeitsideways.com/are-these...-your-fiction/
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Old 02-06-2016, 02:40 PM
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Thank you Brian. This helps a lot although I hadn't realised this is what it meant!

So it's kinda like mediation - being in the now instead of the past lol.

I'm gonna post my first attempt below so you can get the gist of what I'm on about.
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Old 02-06-2016, 02:40 PM
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“He looks weird” my friend mused from over my left shoulder.

She was referring to an image of a fat, middle aged, balding man dressed in a light blue polo neck shirt. His arms were folded with his head tilted to the right as he smiled broadly into the camera.
It looked as though there was a woman stood next to him in the original picture that he’d half cropped out when resizing his profile picture.

I guessed that would have been his wife, Shirley.

It must have been nigh on twenty-four years since I’d last seen the couple. Of course I’d heard bits about them here and there, usually in passing conversation with my family, but nothing of which had particularly interested me.

They had been our neighbors’ in my old village of Townbridge from the age of six to me leaving home at seventeen.
They had a daughter who was five years my junior who was what my father referred to as ‘backward’.
I’d never really understood what he meant but just knew that she was a bit different to the other kids I knew.
Her name was Marion but my friends and I had shortened it to Mazza.
Unfortunately this wasn’t due to the want of giving her an affectionate nickname, but more because Mazza rhymed with Spazza. Yep! Mazza the spazza had caused much hilarity amongst my friends and I back then.

The image of Mr Benson’s smug face stared back at me on the computer screen and I half squinted as if trying to erase his balding hairline from the picture.
He actually looked just the same, except much less hair. His familiar bulbous eyes smiled right at me.

“Alby Benson sent you a friends request?” Jeanette said as she leant in a little closer, her chin almost touching my shoulder.
“You know him?”

I nodded and without giving it much thought, hovered my mouse over the accept button and clicked.

My flat mate grunted something I didn’t quite catch and turned to return to the kitchen, probably to check on the dinner that was cooking and wafting out an alluring aroma of bolognaise.

I clicked on Alby Bensons name.

His page appeared bearing a large image next to his profile of a pretty landscape, which I instantly recognized as the view of the rolling hills that served as a backdrop to the quaint row of cottages we used to live in.

My finger casually scrolled down his page taking in the various images on his wall.

Most were of him fishing, holding up his catches like trophies and grinning inanely. He wore a cap in most of the images and it seemed to make him look a lot more like he did back then. This made me feel a little less at ease and I subconsciously scrolled faster.

‘Tag a friend who would love this!’ Titled an image of a huge black woman who was knelt naked over a bed.
Luckily her rolls of fat were so big that you couldn’t see her privates.

“Gross!” I muttered as I scrolled further.

The next image that adorned my screen made me freeze momentarily.

Two young girls about fourteen or fifteen in age were sat on a couch. I knew it was in his front room as although the décor was different, it was familiar.

The girls were dressed in school uniform and huddled together smiling at the camera. Their skirts were hitched up a little too high for normal school protocol that revealed flashes of pale thigh skin in between knee high black socks.
Almost sexual but they’re innocence exuding through the image.

I knew it only too well.

Alby Benson stood behind the camera, laughing and joking like it was perfectly normal.

“Let’s see them legs!” he would laugh, “you could be a dancer!”

Back then I was flattered. You see, although I always seemed to attract the wrong sort of attention, I actually always welcomed anything that resembled positive attention.

By positive attention, I meant anything nice.

I was never what I considered good looking. In fact to me, I was ugly.

An ugly duckling!

My front teeth were slightly too big for my mouth and I had thick eyebrows that I’d inherited from my half Spanish father.
On the up side, my skin was olive, which was pretty much the only thing I’d ever been genuinely complemented on my entire life!

Alby Benson had always made a point of commenting on my skin.
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Old 02-06-2016, 02:40 PM
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double post
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Old 02-06-2016, 03:13 PM
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I don't see a problem with it. I think you are referring to exposition instead of "telling." Show don't tell is easily explained by speech tags to me.

Tell:
"Fuck you!" He said angrily.

Show:
"Fuck you!" He snarled through clenched teeth.

Something like that.
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Old 02-06-2016, 04:03 PM
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Originally Posted by daes13 View Post
I don't see a problem with it. I think you are referring to exposition instead of "telling." Show don't tell is easily explained by speech tags to me.

Tell:
"Fuck you!" He said angrily.

Show:
"Fuck you!" He snarled through clenched teeth.

Something like that.

Both of those are 'tell.'

'Through clenched teeth' is telling the reader something he/she should already know if the character is well defined. 'Snarled' is conspicuous as a speech tag. You can't actually snarl: "fuck you."
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Old 02-06-2016, 04:53 PM
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Originally Posted by brianpatrick View Post
You can't actually snarl: "fuck you."
Tell my grand pappy that.

I see what you mean about them both being tell. I'll do more research.
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Old 02-06-2016, 11:38 PM
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I didn't see anything wrong with the text either, and it gave me a idea for a flashback problem I'm having.

is that a snake, god it's huge.
no, wait a minute, that's Timothy Leary.
he always had a lot of sugar cubes but never offered me any tea to go with them.

I really did get an idea about how to fix one of my stories from your post - thanks.


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Old 02-07-2016, 11:19 AM
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'Telling' is more than simply filtering. Anytime the narrator tells the reader something that should be obvious to said reader, as 'watcher' of the scene–that's also 'tell.'

I'm having to work today, but I'll come back to this and explain in more detail later.
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Old 02-07-2016, 12:22 PM
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Thanks a lot for responding all.

I kinda get it...I think!

Look forward to you explaining further bp.

Glad the post helped you Max
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Old 02-07-2016, 02:04 PM
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That lean cheeked face.
The sharp, sidelong glance from almond shaped eyes.

Christ, such thick, dark straight hair with sunglass stems slipping down into it.

God, I'm lucky to be married because this one could take me to the cleaners at her leisure.



Showing or Telling?
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Old 02-08-2016, 01:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Nick Pierce View Post
That lean cheeked face.
The sharp, sidelong glance from almond shaped eyes.

Christ, such thick, dark straight hair with sunglass stems slipping down into it.

God, I'm lucky to be married because this one could take me to the cleaners at her leisure.



Showing or Telling?
Haha! This made me smile.

So it's showing, right?
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Old 02-08-2016, 01:24 PM
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Originally Posted by BluebellCharm View Post
Haha! This made me smile.

So it's showing, right?

I'm not telling.
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Old 02-08-2016, 01:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Nick Pierce View Post
I'm not telling.
Lol! So I don't get the answer? Or I was right with showing?
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Old 02-08-2016, 02:53 PM
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Originally Posted by BluebellCharm View Post
Lol! So I don't get the answer? Or I was right with showing?

I would, rather than tell you, like to show you how to decide for yourself.

Some can read Cormac's The Road and envision the environment fully although others say the entire style of writing is so sparse that it appears an outline of an unfleshed story.

Say, have you read The Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller?
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Old 02-10-2016, 01:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Nick Pierce View Post

Say, have you read The Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller?
I haven't Nick but from what I can gather it's been banned in Britain for that last thirty years. Scandalous huh? Would you recommend it?
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Old 02-10-2016, 02:54 PM
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Originally Posted by BluebellCharm View Post
I haven't Nick but from what I can gather it's been banned in Britain for that last thirty years. Scandalous huh? Would you recommend it?

I'm on page 17 in the text.

Yeah, it wouldn't hurt you to read something that is not ... ahem ... proper.


And you can make your head spin trying to decide if his lines are showing or telling.
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Old 02-11-2016, 04:17 PM
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“He looks weird” my friend mused from over my left shoulder. >>> this is telling the reader something that's obvious, or soon will be. The statement "he looks weird," is enough. We will soon see that they are friends, and unless the left shoulder is somehow more important than the right (or any other body part), it's unnecessary. We see her friend on her shoulder in a little bit. So: "He looks weird," she said.


She was referring to an image of a fat, middle aged, balding man dressed in a light blue polo neck shirt. His arms were folded with his head tilted to the right as he smiled broadly into the camera.
It looked as though there was a woman stood next to him in the original picture that he’d half cropped out when resizing his profile picture. I guessed that would have been his wife, Shirley. >>> I don't mean to tell you how to write, or rewrite your stuff, but I rewrote this para just to 'show' a complicated point:

The image: a fat middle aged balding man, dressed in a light blue Polo neck shirt, arms folded, head tilted, smiling broadly. There was half a woman, cropped out during the resizing of his profile picture. His wife Shirley, I guessed.

^^^ mostly I removed passive language,
And brought the scene into immediacy.


It must have been nigh on twenty-four years since I’d last seen the couple. >>> I would remove the first six words here. I know that leaves an incomplete sentence, and you could make it a complete one of you want, but what I'm trying to show here is pacing. You want to drive the reader to keep reading without giving away too much. Sometimes this involves breaking some rules.

The next sentence has a bit of 'telling' the unnecessary, and passive language, which slows the pace and pops the reader out.

Of course I’d heard bits about them here and there, usually in passing conversation with my family, but nothing of which had particularly interested me.>>> Of course I’d heard bits, here and there, usually in passing, but none of it particularly interested me.

You want to keep it immediate for the reader, keep them in the moment. Even in third person.

They had been our neighbors’ in my old village of Townbridge from the age of six to me leaving home at seventeen. >>> passive language, slowing the pace... So: They were our neighbors in the old village of Townbridge, from the age of six, to my leaving at seventeen. >>> this keeps the important parts while reducing unnecessary words which again, pops the reader out.

This alteration allows you to stay present with the next sentence...

They had a daughter who was five years my junior who was what my father referred to as ‘backward’.
I’d never really understood what he meant but just knew that she was a bit different to the other kids I knew.
Her name was Marion but my friends and I had shortened it to Mazza. >>> cumbersome, this sentence (s). I would write: They had a daughter five years my junior. My father called her 'backward.' I never really understood what he meant, but she was a bit different. Her name was Marion, so we shortened it to Mazza. Yep, it rhymed with spazza, and my friends and I laughed.

Okay... I'm stopping here. I think you see my point. 'Show, don't tell', is complicated. It involves many different things. I think of it as keeping the reader in the moment; not too much, not too little; like walking a tightrope.
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Old 02-11-2016, 04:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Nick Pierce View Post



Say, have you read The Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller?

Yes, a few times. You can open a page—any page—and read for a few, and be satisfied. Mr. Miller was a genius. Despite his choice of topics, he was a master of the sentence; a man out of his time, or any other. As far above Bukowski, as he was below Joyce.
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Old 02-11-2016, 04:34 PM
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I think I just need to drink a bottle of whiskey with you, and let you explain it all. But what I can see, I understand somewhat.
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Old 02-11-2016, 04:47 PM
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Originally Posted by brianpatrick View Post
Yes, a few times. You can open a page—any page—and read for a few, and be satisfied. Mr. Miller was a genius. Despite his choice of topics, he was a master of the sentence; a man out of his time, or any other. As far above Bukowski, as he was below Joyce.

Henry once had a conversation with Hank in which he told Hank that he (Hank) was screwin' up to be drinkin' so much.

I'm startin' to see what the buzz, the wording one - not the drinking one, is about.
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Old 02-11-2016, 05:06 PM
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Originally Posted by daes13 View Post
I think I just need to drink a bottle of whiskey with you, and let you explain it all. But what I can see, I understand somewhat.

Well, if you come to Phoenix, bring beer. I don't drink whiskey😀
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Old 02-11-2016, 07:01 PM
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Originally Posted by max crash View Post
is that a snake, god it's huge.
no, wait a minute, that's Timothy Leary.
he always had a lot of sugar cubes but never offered me any tea to go with them.
This genuinely made me chuckle.
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Old 02-11-2016, 11:30 PM
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figure out how you're feeling ...about anything.. that's how you figure out show vs tell.

Last edited by chat bot; 03-02-2016 at 03:13 PM..
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Old 02-12-2016, 04:59 AM
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Originally Posted by BluebellCharm View Post
I haven't Nick but from what I can gather it's been banned in Britain for that last thirty years. Scandalous huh? Would you recommend it?
No it was never banned in the UK. Just in America and Canada. I read it in my teens. I need to read it again, now you've reminded me of it.
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Old 02-12-2016, 09:16 AM
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brianpatrick, that's excellent thank you. That really helps. There really is so much to learn!

Nick, I've ordered your recommendation from Amazon just now. A used copy...hope that was a wise choice!

wcf - that's what I read. Just shows how reliable internet info is huh?
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Old 02-12-2016, 11:52 AM
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Originally Posted by BluebellCharm

Nick, I've ordered your recommendation from Amazon just now. A [I
used[/I] copy...hope that was a wise choice!

Wise choice?

Sure.

Any type of gloves - rubber, leather, canvas, etc. (I'd keep the silk ones for special occasions) ought to keep you safe.
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Old 02-12-2016, 12:05 PM
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haha, i didn't actually get your prescriptions myself.
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Old 02-13-2016, 06:59 PM
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Blue, the phrase show don't tell means exactly that. Never explain anything to your reader. Become a camera. Draw the reader into the story and exit yourself. If the reader needs information it must be given in dialog or suggested by metaphor or setting.
For example: It was a dark and stormy night.
becomes: Sudden lightening illuminated dark clouds in a dark sky. Fat raindrops began to pelt the window.

Grab the reader by the shirt and yank them into the scene. Make their mind's eye use all five senses. If you have to explain something it spoils the suspension of disbelief.
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