Show don't Tell concept is confusing

The Big Peat

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Personally, while I try and avoid episodes of all-telling as per example 1, I'm happy to use the kind of part-showing or mostly-showing of examples 2 and 3 and I suspect that most readers couldn't give a damn one way or another.
I also suspect most readers don't care.

Tbh, when reading, I've got zero problem with 1 used pretty regularly, and the sentence I'd dislike most is 4 because it doesn't show enough for me to form a picture in my mind

And like Tobes above, I will sometimes finish a book and think it was a bit telly, but I do usually finish it.
 

tinkerdan

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I think that show is always better than tell; however sometimes there is a need for brevity and that might look like tell in some cases.

Consider our favorite purple prose.

“It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.”

Here we have the best of both-or worst depending on your outlook.

He might have been better off just telling us.

It was a dark and stormy night.

Leave it at that.

However he decided he had show us what this dark and stormy night looked like.
 

Capricorn42

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In my own head, I've boiled it down to 2 simple examples:

Telling: Dave arrived home, still really pissed off over getting fired.
Showing: Dave stormed into the house, slamming the door behind him. "B*****!" He yelled. "How dare they fire me!"
 

Astro Pen

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Try writing something in first person present tense. It makes things very direct and experiential. It will curb any tendency to info dump, and focus you on real time action/ emotion.
Generally you are going to mix showing and telling. Your style may be yellow green or blue green but it will mix yellow and blue in some proportion.

Think cinematically What is the key info you pick up in a film scene? How do you get that imagery and vibe into text?
Even 'showing' with text has limits. You have to work within it's capabilities.
If you can write this scene and show the feeling it evokes verbally you are a better writer than I can even aspire to be.

 

hawksflyhigh

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So... this is probably one of the biggest issues i have had in relaying good stories and tales

the best way i can explain it is- SHOWING is about really relaying the experience itself while telling merely gives a glimpse of what is happening.
For example:
Last night I stubbed my toe <- that is a tell

Now- Last night, a sudden loud noise caused my body to jolt out of bed with my heart pounding. Ba-dump! ba-dump! treading carefully like a cat I quickly went downstairs... only to stub my toe on Trevors misplaced doggie bowl... And looking across the room I saw Trevor staring at me like the innocent yet mischevious puppy he is - proud of the mess he laid before me. Sigh! what I do for him...

The first example merely gave a brief description. The latter one painted a picture- showed you how I felt, what was the emotions running through my veins, gave you a sense of my motivations (fear, curiosity, etc)
 

Teresa Edgerton

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It is a matter, as others have said, of knowing when to do the one and when to do the other, rather than one always be the right thing and the other always being wrong. Also, it can be a matter of the individual reader's taste. Some like the added depth that comes with a great deal of showing; others may prefer a leaner type of prose.

But in general: Too much showing can make the story discursive, wandering off into irrelevancies. It can slow the pace and give the impression that the author is showing off. Too much telling, and the story comes across as infodumpy: more like a textbook than a novel, or too much like an outline for a story rather than like the story itself. It can feel like a very perfunctory effort on the part of the writer; the average reader may not be able to pinpoint what is bothering them, but they will instinctively feel that the story is missing something and fail to be engaged.
 

BT Jones

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It is a matter, as others have said, of knowing when to do the one and when to do the other, rather than one always be the right thing and the other always being wrong. Also, it can be a matter of the individual reader's taste. Some like the added depth that comes with a great deal of showing; others may prefer a leaner type of prose.

But in general: Too much showing can make the story discursive, wandering off into irrelevancies. It can slow the pace and give the impression that the author is showing off. Too much telling, and the story comes across as infodumpy: more like a textbook than a novel, or too much like an outline for a story rather than like the story itself. It can feel like a very perfunctory effort on the part of the writer; the average reader may not be able to pinpoint what is bothering them, but they will instinctively feel that the story is missing something and fail to be engaged.
I agree, @Teresa Edgerton. It's a very fine line, and one that I think I am only now getting to grips with by reading stuff and also flexing my muscles with the challenges. Already I am re-reading things that I wrote earlier this year (before I joined the chrons) and cringing a little bit over how much leading I was guilty off; that and the whole 'roared / sassed / spat' versus 'said' angle. I'm now pretty much exclusively a 'said' person, with maybe the odd 'cried' or 'hollered' for emphasis.

I think i just needed to read more.
 

Teresa Edgerton

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It's not just a matter of reading more, (though doing lots of reading is important), but of how we read: paying attention to what takes us out of a story and to what draws us in (this one is harder, however, because if something really draws us in we've stopped paying attention to the writing and we're too immersed in the world and the plot and the characters to notice how the writer casts his or her spell—fortunately, this is where rereading immediately after to study the best bits comes in).
 
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