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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Showing Versus Telling

My computer time has been curtailed quite a bit lately for various reasons, but I'm doing my best to keep up with all my contact sites.

The other day, I was jotting down a passage for "Seer, Tyro, Fiend," and I had an epiphany of sorts. Everything I have ever read about writing fiction advises "show, don't tell." Okay, sometimes you do have to tell, such as when information must be given but it is not special or critical enough to warrant a lot of elaboration. Sometimes, you just have to say it and move on.

I had often thought that the first person point of view allowed some latitude on this, since the narrative is the character telling his/her story. One literary agent I worked with said it should be like the character telling it to a best friend. But the way one talks to one's best friend is telling, and it can make for very dry reading, not putting the reader in the shoes of the POV. An example:

"I stepped back to get a viewing perspective of the sketch and got a nasty shock."


"When I stepped back to get a viewing perspective of the sketch, I gasped and dropped my pencil."

The difference is obvious. What she did shows her surprise instead of telling she was surprised.

Show versus tell has always seemed a somewhat slippery distinction in my mind, especially in first person, but I think I've stumbled upon a way to overcome. I'll be reviewing the manuscript for "Seer" at some point for just this sort of opportunity to put the reader "in the moment."

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 1: "Stranger Faces" in ebook and "Two Faces, Two Faced" in print! 
FUTURE: "The Changeling Kill" and "Dabblers" going to print!

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