If you’re a writer, I bet you’ve heard of Show Don’t Tell. Lots’ of times, right?
Me too. I’ve heard it from my teachers; I’ve learned it in my writing classes; I’ve read it on writing websites; and from books that teach how to write stories.
So what’s the big deal? Why is Showing vs. Telling so important? It’s important because when you’re writing a fictional (pretend) story, you’re creating the illusion that your reader is right there in the story, seeing the events happen.
A newspaper article is different. The journalist presents the facts. He tells the reader what happened. He uses the 5W method: Who? What? Where? When? Why?
A Fiction writer is challenged to give this information without coming right out and telling the reader.
Because if a reader is told a story, he feels like he’s being read to. Like when your sister tells you that she just learned to do a back- hand spring in her gymnastics practice. That’s interesting right? But by her telling you that she did it, you don’t necessarily feel like you were there in the gym with her when it happened. If a reader is reading a story, he wants to feel like he’s experiencing the action right along with the characters.
If you write:
Eli’s football team was behind 28-7. He was angry. (That’s telling.)
If you write:
Eli’s football team was behind 28-7. He looked up at the score board, and threw the football down on the ground with such force that it bounced along the field and into the bleachers. I dunked but I was too late. The football caught me in the cheek stinging my whole face. (That’s showing.)
See the difference? In the second example, the reader knows that Eli is angry, just by the fact that he threw the football down to the ground with such great force. This sentence brings the reader into the story. The author tells the reader that Eli is angry without having to come right out and say it. This makes the story more interesting and makes the reader feel like he’s right there at the game with Eli.
So give it a try with your own story. Read something you’ve written. See if there’s a place where you’ve told the reader information. If there is, write that part over. Bring the reader into the action. A great way to do this is using the 5 senses. In Eli’s story, the reader can see him throw the ball and feel the sting on the main characters cheek. By incorporating those two senses, the reader can really feel the action and feel like he’s a part of the game!
So, remember…when you’re writing fiction, don’t tell your readers what happened. Show them! 🙂