How do I show and not tell?
The plot I'm working at happens to be very complicated (too complicated for my own good) and I'm afraid I won't be able to convey all my thoughts and little details without going full information-dump halfway through the book.
Also, a lt of people say "show don't tell" as if this is something everyone is required to say once in a while, yet when asked, they flat out ignore the question and never give an answer, or give an equally meme answer such as "if you would read more, you would know" which certainly helps as much as a bag of slugs on a summer morning.
Rather than go full infodump at some specific point, drop facts little by little. If something drastic is in store, foreshadow it a bit, but don't make a big deal out of it until it's necessary. Try to do as much as you can with as little as possible, plot and exposition wise, don't waste the reader's time; if you can make more than one thing happen in single "movement", do it.
Tell: He felt sad
Show: Tears rolled down his eyes.../Did nothing but stare at the floor for hours...
Tell: He felt anxious
Show: His pace grew quicker.../Walking from one side of the room to the other...
Can't remember where but i read a pretty useful piece of advice on the matter of showing and not telling and sometimes resort to it as a guideline to review my texts. Basically 'though't verbs are to be understood as prohibited such as Thinks, Knows, Understands, Realizes, Believes, Wants, Remembers, Imagines, Desires. You have to find ways to go about writing situations that convey the intention. Sometimes it helps to write a draft of the specific scene/narrative ignoring this rule and then re-read it and correct it along the way until it becomes intuitive
This is good.
Tell: The curtains were blue.
Show: The blue curtains fluttered with the breeze as she opened the window, and leaning out she saw Francois coming up the street. Francois? Her heart stopped, and for a moment she thought the curtains had too: Francois should have been in prison for the another six months. Good behavior? Parole? The silver gleam of the forty-four in her nightstand darted across her mind's eye—without even entering the apartment, Francois emanated violence.
"Show, don't tell" is such vague meme advice. "Showing" and "telling" both have their place and function in fiction. Figure out which kind of description best brings out the detail you're trying to convey. Use it.
The rule is bullshit and basically no one sticks to it. >>7333029 has the right idea. It's about creating a stronger story by getting the reader involved in the story rather than beating them over the head with something. Obviously you can summarize and have exposition in a story and most writers will. But if you're a shitty writer it's useful advice.
It's a matter of knowing when to tell and when to show. I would say that it's much easier to tell in third person. Then it's clear the narrator is not in the story so tell away.
If something is beautifully written nobody cares whether you told or showed. Hemmingway famously shows you only the tip in some of his stories so that staring at a coffee cup intensely is showing us depression. But look at this quote:
> There was no hardship; but there was no luxury and he had thought that he could get back into training that way. That in some way he could work the fat off his soul the way a fighter went into the mountains to work and train in order to burn it out of his body.
This is pure telling from Hemmingway and he could have shown us a guy trotting through the mountains, but he didn't. Do you feel it would have been better if he had?
Since no one in this thread is actually giving you any actual advice, I guess I will.
Let's say you want to tell your reader that a character is lonely. You could tell it (James was lonely), but that's a failure. Think first about the qualities of a lonely person. What does that person look like and what they do? I would say that a lonely person has given up trying to impress and get people because it's all been hopeless for him. So he's probably unshaven, wearing shitty clothes, living in a shitty, filthy house. He might watch romantic comedies and cry. Or maybe he watches hardcore pornography where the woman is abused, because they have ignored him all his life. These are things you need to decide to shape your character.
Now, have your character do those things. The reader, if they aren't a nincompoop, will understand that the guy is lonely front the lonely life he lives. And isn't it better, doesn't it show that you are a more thoughtful author, than if you just wrote 'James was lonely'?
>You could tell it (James was lonely), but that's a failure
it fucking isn't, it's all dependent on your goals and what you want to express, if you "show" everything it gets old real quickly
Writing well doesn't get old, unless you're interested in reading about what happens, in which case 'James is lonely' is a good way to get the prose out of the way so you can focus on the plot.
Except that no one gives a fuck about James's sad life, so summarizing that "James was lonely" is the quickest, least painful option for everyone involved, instead of spending page after page describing what a fucking loser James is, hoping the reader will finally take the hint.
I see. And I suppose nobody cares about whether or not Raskalnikov felt guilty. Dostoevsky really should have just written 'Raskalnikov felt guilty' and been done with it so that he could have spent more time on the plot.
Tell: The rule is bullshit and basically no one sticks to it
Show: Years back, Anon spent weeks preparing his sci-fi fantasy epic "The Demon Sword of Mordan" for class. He imagined the praise he would get, the publishing offers, the awards. Maybe even a kiss on the cheek from the cute teacher's assistant.
When the paper was returned, he found it spattered with red ink and a meager grade. "Show, don't tell" appeared throughout the paper, like a mantra of humilation.
He swallowed hard, crumpled the paper up and then spent an hour reading up on self-publishing.