Show and Tell

Posted by Backyard Urban Gardening on Sunday, April 29, 2007

We beginning writers are constantly told to "show" more than "tell" more. I struggle with "showing" versus "telling" in my stories sometimes. Today I'm going to work on an exercise that takes a plain old boring passage that "tells" what happened and attempt to improve upon it by "showing" what happened.

Let's try this one for an example:

"It was an old Ford car" and change it like this, "The metallic blue Ford sedan had Wyoming license plates, tinted windows and a dent in the right rear fender."

Is this an improvement?

Here's another one:

"She was a plain looking woman" and change it to, "Wearing blue jeans and a white t-shirt that showed her midriff, Josephine tied her shoulder length hair back in a pony-tail."

You're welcome to post your version of this exercise by clicking on the comments link below.


bunnygirl said...

Adding more description can be good, but be careful not to imply to new writers that it's always appropriate. Detailed description slows the action, which might not always be desirable.

Showing vs telling isn't all about adjectives. It's also about showing vs telling the action. And since showing "things" slows down the showing of "what happened," one has to learn to strike a balance. This is achieved by knowing what each scene is intended to accomplish and writing with that in mind.

Knowing that a car was a blue Ford with a dented bumper matters if you're describing a hit and run accident. But the car you parked beside isn't something that needs detailed description if you're telling your mom about a sale on throw rugs at Walmart. ;-)

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