By Kayla Curry
Wow. So I've been published for about seven months now, but over the last year or so I've heard this piece of advice: Show, don't tell. That's great advice and all, but what does it mean?
Wikipedia says: Show, don't tell is a technique often employed by writers to enable the reader to experience the story through action, words, thoughts, senses, and feelings rather than through the author's exposition, summarization, and description.
Great . . . but again, what does it mean?
Well, I think I've finally figured it out. To make it simple, phrases like. "He was angry," fall flat on a reader. It's like saying, "the sky is blue," or, "grass is green." The reader doesn't need to be told these things. The reader needs to be shown these things.
Anger crept into him and clouded his mood like a storm forming on the horizon.
Blue overtook the sky and expanded as far as the eye could see.
Patches of grass showed it's pride with emerald green shades.
I've gone through some of my writing and found that the places I have the "telling, not showing" problem is when I describe emotions. He was sad, she was happy, this made him mad and other phrases like this now make me cringe when I see them. Of course, it's not necessary to do this every scene, but you can't just tell the reader how the character feels all the time. You need to show them what the emotion is like when the character feels it.
When you read something, most people think that you are just supposed to take the authors word that a certain character was feeling a certain emotion. Well, why should you just take the authors word? They wrote it and so it's true?
That's not how it works. As the author, you have to convince the reader that your character really is feeling this certain emotion. You can't just write down something and say, "That's how it's gonna be and you can't tell me other wise!" You need to let the reader experience the emotion. Let them decide for themselves through your words, not your statements.
A statement is like the examples I mentioned above. He was angry.
Your words can bring that anger to life and take it from being a statement to something more. Something that readers are going to remember. Something that readers can experience. Describing things like emotions can take a reader back to a time where they felt that emotion, and that is what make a memorable story.
Okay, so you've got the concept down, just don't over do it. You need to know when to move the story forward (telling) and when to slow it down (showing). It's called pacing, and that is how you use showing and telling to control the pace of your story.
Need to make it longer? Do more showing.
Need to cut a scene down? Do more telling.