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Old May 12th, 2014, 05:48 PM
Slayr231's Avatar
Slayr231
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Showing v Telling

Hello and welcome to the final week of my creative writing class! We’ve covered a lot of material, but now it’s time for what could be the most important, and hardest, thing about writing. That’s right, as if the title didn’t give it away, we’re going to be working on showing v telling. From why it’s important to how to do it yourself, it will all be covered here. Before we officially begin, a word of warning. If you don’t get showing right away, that’s okay. Like I said before, this is arguably the hardest thing about writing, so no one is expecting you to be an absolute expert on it by your second attempt. I know I struggle with it, and I’m pretty darn sure there are professional writers who struggle with it too. Now with that out of the way, let’s begin.

There’s a major difference between telling your story, and showing it. You can simply tell the reader, “John was a boy with shaggy, dark brown hair and green eyes”, and you would get your point across. The reader now knows a little bit about what John looks like. But I have one word for that, BORING. That’s one dry sentence right there. Showing is all about taking the little details, and sprinkling them within the story. It might seem hard at first, but you’ll get the hang of it. Now, let’s see how we can sprinkle in the fact the John had dark brown hair and green eyes. “John paused for a moment to brush his dark brown hair out of his eyes, green eyes.” Bam, there we go. Is it perfect? No, but it’s a good start. Rather than having John suspend there in space as the reader gets a picture of what he looks like, we now have him doing something. Albeit, he’s brushing his hair out of his face, but at least it’s better than doing nothing.

I’ll get back on how to do showing in a moment, but now I must explain why we show. I swear there’s a couple good reasons behind why we show, and no, it’s not just to make things a heck of a lot more complicated. Let’s start with an example. “John ran out of the cave, away from the dragon, and made it. But just barely”. Wow, that was boring. I mean, John is running away from a dragon. There at least should be some excitement. Will John make it? Will he make it out with the treasure? But most importantly, will John’s perfect dark brown hair survive? When you tell, there’s no suspense, action, or any of that great stuff. And when there’s none of that, the story isn’t interesting and it falls flat. And the last thing you want is a story about John the dragon slayer that puts people to sleep. The second reason why you want to show, is for description. When I told you about John escaping the dragon, could you see him running? How about the stench of burning flesh from all the other people who tried to steal the treasure beforehand? Could you feel the rough, rocky walls scrape against John’s skin as he ran into them? No. In other words, you weren’t in the scene. When someone reads your story, there’s a wall between the words and the reader. Until you prove them otherwise, all your story is, is text on a screen/page. Showing is all about breaking through that wall and pulling them into the scene. You want the reader to experience all of the things John is experiencing, and there’s no way in the world telling the reader your story is going to do that. Don’t tell your story, show it.

I’m about to ask a very simple question that will make showing a thousand times easier (but showing is still going to be really freaking hard). This question won’t be perfect, but it will help. Can the camera see it? Think of a movie. For the sake of an example, let’s go with my favorite movie, “How to Train Your Dragon”. I could tell you Hiccup is a nice guy, but how do you know? How does the camera show us that Hiccup is a nice guy? Well, instead of killing a dragon, he nurses it back to health. Instead of having Toothless beat back all of the other Vikings and escape the kill ring, Hiccup convinces him to stand down. It’s through events like that, that the reader begins to see what kind of character your characters are. Don’t tell us that John is a little selfish, because the camera can’t see that. You have to come up with events that show the reader. Remember, the reader is free to come up with their own opinion about the characters, or so they think. Just show the reader a string of events, and they should all come to the same conclusion. If John hires someone else for a little help, but then skimps out on his help’s pay, the readers should all agree that John is a bit of a jerk. In other words, it’s less about words, and more about examples.

Great, now we know even more about showing. However, the camera doesn’t pick up everything. So, simply asking if the camera could pick it up isn’t always going to work. For instance, smells. In movies, they have to rely on the characters to tell the viewer that something stinks. For instance, a wrinkle of the nose and a simple, “What’s that awful smell?” should suffice. Now with books, we can do so much more than that. Since smells aren’t visible in a movie, they often downplay the level of effectiveness they can have on one’s actions. Since we can show the reader how much the smell of burning carcasses is affecting John, we can have it play a much bigger role. Such as John smelling a breeze of fresh air, that leads him to finding a secret escape tunnel leading away from the dragon.

Now that we know what showing can do for us, how do we do it? I’m here to say that it can be pretty easy once you get the right mindset. Remember last week how I had you describe a scene to me? Well, this is where it’s going to pay off. I’m going to see if you can read the goal of a scene, and answer the questions who, what, when, where, why, and how. These questions are essential to showing. So, if we want to show how John learns that being selfish is bad, we’re going to have to answer these. So, who is in the scene? Alright, that one is easy. It’s going to be John and his helper, who shall be named Freddy. What is the goal of the scene? This is the point where John realizes that being selfish is wrong. What are the two after? Treasure, of course! When does this take place? At night, when the dragon is asleep. Where does this take place? In the dragon’s den. Why does this scene take place? Because we need a conflict and character development, and this can accomplish both. How is John going to learn that being selfish is bad? Well, Freddy finds out that John is cheating him out on his pay just to save some money. So, Freddy is going to abandon John and wake the dragon for revenge. Poor John, but if you had been fair, none of this would have happened.

Now we have a goal, and we know how to get there. You may need to ask the same word twice, but in a different question like I did with “what”. Now, the scene is ready to be written out. And thanks to my wonderful planning, writer’s block is a lot less likely to hit, and if it does, it’s not going to be so bad. Of course, you can split the event down even further and ask questions like: “How does John know that Freddy abandoned him?” That will help a considerable amount as well.

Here we are! We have covered just about everything there is to writing stories. We learned that a story is simply a big fractal of events, and the best way to get readers through the course of events is to have them follow the adventure of one or more great characters. However, it’s all about how you make characters interact with each other that depends whether or not they’ll be great. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to plan ahead and get an idea of what the characters are going to be doing. After all, it’s a lot easier to show a story if you know what to show. And you have to show if you want to make it all as interesting and captivating as possible. If you can do all of that, I guarantee that you will surprise yourself with the quality of your writing. Before I leave you, I have one last thing to say, and this is the best tip anyone can ever give you. Just have fun with it. If you’re not having fun, it translates to your story, and it will wear it down. Besides, if you’re not having fun, the why on earth are you writing in the first place?

Homework Assignment:
The last homework assignment. Don’t worry, this is very simple. All I want you to do is take the event you planned out last week, and write it out. If it ends up being a page long, I would only like to see a couple paragraphs. It might be a little mean, but I have a life outside of PC (shocker, I know), and I’m afraid I can’t spend hours upon hours going through stories. If you didn’t flesh out an event last week, then just submit a piece of your writing. It could be anything, really, but my couple paragraph rule still applies. Am I going to refuse to look through your piece if it’s longer than that? Of course not, but just try to keep it short for my sake.
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  #2    
Old May 12th, 2014, 08:59 PM
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Sorry, I know I haven't been in on these things at all up to this point and am now showing up just to criticize, but this post hits a couple of huge peeves for me, and I think it conveys some bad lessons.

First of all, you appear to be conflating "show don't tell" and descriptive imagery. All people mean when they say "show don't tell" is that you should demonstrate important things as much as possible, rather than simply stating them. So you're spot-on in this paragraph:

Quote:
I could tell you Hiccup is a nice guy, but how do you know? How does the camera show us that Hiccup is a nice guy? Well, instead of killing a dragon, he nurses it back to health. Instead of having Toothless beat back all of the other Vikings and escape the kill ring, Hiccup convinces him to stand down. It’s through events like that, that the reader begins to see what kind of character your characters are. Don’t tell us that John is a little selfish, because the camera can’t see that. You have to come up with events that show the reader.
Yes, good, that's exactly what showing vs telling is. However, it has absolutely nothing to do with this:

Quote:
I’m going to see if you can read the goal of a scene, and answer the questions who, what, when, where, why, and how. These questions are essential to showing.
Just not true. There are any number of ways you can answer those questions; it's got nothing to do with "showing." And showing vs telling really doesn't have anything to do with this:

Quote:
“John was a boy with shaggy, dark brown hair and green eyes”, and you would get your point across. The reader now knows a little bit about what John looks like. But I have one word for that, BORING. That’s one dry sentence right there. Showing is all about taking the little details, and sprinkling them within the story. It might seem hard at first, but you’ll get the hang of it. Now, let’s see how we can sprinkle in the fact the John had dark brown hair and green eyes. “John paused for a moment to brush his dark brown hair out of his eyes, green eyes.” Bam, there we go. Is it perfect? No, but it’s a good start. Rather than having John suspend there in space as the reader gets a picture of what he looks like, we now have him doing something. Albeit, he’s brushing his hair out of his face, but at least it’s better than doing nothing.
Showing has nothing to do with details. Nothing. All you've done here is weaseled some physical description into a more active sentence, which isn't a bad thing--one of the first steps for new writers looking to improve their use of description is to move from simply barfing up a list of everything you can see about something into integrating it better with the scene. But it's not a show vs tell problem. I mean, what do you think the second sentence is even showing? It's still telling us the color of John's hair, eyes, etc. And there isn't, for that matter, any way to show the color of a character's eyes; you're always going to have to straight-up state it, one way or another. Again, showing vs telling is concerned demonstrating a trait versus stating a trait. You can show that a character is pretty without saying anything about his appearance, simply by paying attention to how you have other characters act towards him.

Annnnd the second peeve actually has nothing to do with showing vs telling but your physical description example there. The whole, "don't just have a character stand there while you talk about them" thing is, as I said, is a good first step. But the hair-brushing example is just as bad a sentence--maybe worse. I guess you could argue that it's a little less boring, but it's an even more bloated waste of time. Now we're wasting 17 words on information no one cares about instead of only 12.

The problem with "John was a boy with shaggy, dark brown hair and green eyes" is not that it's just a bunch of adjectives in a row (still bad), but rather that you aren't really considering what's important. You don't solve that problem by looking for a more roundabout way to slide John's hair and eye color into the narrative. You solve the problem by considering what the reader needs to know to either have enough knowledge to follow the plot or get a proper sense of the scene in their heads. It's not much!

Look at it this way: there are an infinite number of things you could mention about any given scene, any given character. I could write an entire thousand-page book describing in minute detail my room, everything in it, how the quality of the light changes over the course of the day, how it swelters like an un-air-conditioned hell in the summer (*fistshake*), and so on, but not only would that be hella boring, but it would be far less effective than one or two sentences giving a couple of handpicked details that capture its essence. Your job, as a writer, is not to capture in detail all the qualities of a thing; your job is to act as a filter on the world of your story, dictating that your reader sees only what is necessary to get the message you're trying to convey from the scene.

This is hard! This is why writing is hard! Just putting down a big list of everything you notice about a place is something any person can do; correctly choosing which elements of those list really define the place is where most people struggle and wherein the artistry lies.

So returning to the sentences you're using as examples, John's hair and eye color are almost certainly pointless details. They say nothing about his actual character; theyr'e just window dressing. And like all irrelevant details, readers are going to completely forget about them almost immediately; it'll be like you didn't even mention them at all. Wasted space! You should've spent that time on something someone might actually care about. I mean, consider this quote from JK Rowling:

Quote:
I met a really clever reader the other day, and this is what's wonderful about books; she said to me, `I really know what Neville looks like.' And I said, `Describe Neville for me.' And she said, `Well, he's short and he's black, and he's got dreadlocks.' Now, to me, Neville's short and plump and blond, but that's what's great about books. You know, she's just seeing something different. People bring their own imagination to it. They have to collaborate with the author on creating the world.
See? The reader didn't even get Neville's race right! (If we take Rowling's mental image of Neville to be the "right" one, anyway.) And what does it matter. Not at all. Not one single iota. Spelling it out would just be pointless detail.

People don't remember that ♥♥♥♥. They pick up on Neville's character traits and use that to construct some sort of mental image that corresponds to what they think a person with those traits would look like. It is not important that readers get a mental image of a character that exactly aligns with your mental image of the character--what matters is that they're able to create a mental representation of a character whose essence is as close to what you envision that character's essence being. Something like what color eyes they have is almost never going to be helpful in achieving that goal.

And by god, if it actually is relevant, then just spit it out already. If your character's super-special purple eyes are actually important to the plot, then: "John's purple-striped eyes made him an object of much ridicule, but he couldn't cast his Stu-magic without them." (Look at that, we get to see how they're relevant right off the bat!) Please not, "John blinked his purple-striped eyes, wondering what he should have for lunch." What is the adjectival phrase even doing in there? You just really wanted me to know his eyes are purple, but then you went and threw the detail into a completely useless sentence and give me no indication of why I should care. I'm going to forget that in approximately two sentences, and you just went and padded out your manuscript with a sentence that contributes nothing to the narrative. So if you're going to describe something, describe it, please. No weaseling.

I'm oversimplifying that quite a bit, but if you're faced with the problem of "I have all these little details that are going to be boring if I just talk about them," your solution shouldn't be to go, "Hmm, how can I include all these details without it being boring," it should be to ask yourself, "Hmm, do I really need all these little details?"
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Old May 12th, 2014, 09:49 PM
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Slayr231
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Originally Posted by Negrek
Sorry, I know I haven't been in on these things at all up to this point and am now showing up just to criticize, but this post hits a couple of huge peeves for me, and I think it conveys some bad lessons.
Fair enough, let's see what you have to say.

Quote:
Showing has nothing to do with details. Nothing.
Ehh, I'm not totally convinced. I think it has a lot to do with details. Showing might not concern itself with any of the smaller details, but I think it covers the larger ones, like setting. "John was in a cave". Well, that's telling. Now describing the dank smell and stalagmites, that's more showing. I guess you would call it descriptive imagery, but I group it in with showing, since you're pulling the reader in and showing them the surroundings.

Quote:
Annnnd the second peeve actually has nothing to do with showing vs telling but your physical description example there. The whole, "don't just have a character stand there while you talk about them" thing is, as I said, is a good first step. But the hair-brushing example is just as bad a sentence--maybe worse. I guess you could argue that it's a little less boring, but it's an even more bloated waste of time. Now we're wasting 17 words on information no one cares about instead of only 12.
I'll agree with you up to a point. Was that the best example I could have provided? No, but that wasn't my concern. The example was just a passing glance in the lesson, and I didn't spend much time on it because it was just there for people like me who need examples in order to learn. In other words, it's not that important. I still felt like my point was made, and that's really all I needed.

Quote:
The problem with "John was a boy with shaggy, dark brown hair and green eyes" is not that it's just a bunch of adjectives in a row (still bad), but rather that you aren't really considering what's important. You don't solve that problem by looking for a more roundabout way to slide John's hair and eye color into the narrative. You solve the problem by considering what the reader needs to know to either have enough knowledge to follow the plot or get a proper sense of the scene in their heads. It's not much!
I think this is more determined by the story. If the main character thinks John is the most gorgeous thing to ever walk the face of the earth, then some description would be nice to get some idea of what the main character is swooning over. As for your point, I covered that point in one of my earlier lessons, so don't worry. Only include what you need to know. Which, is determined by the story. Since I wasn't actually writing a story here, I thought it didn't really matter.

Quote:
This is hard! This is why writing is hard! Just putting down a big list of everything you notice about a place is something any person can do; correctly choosing which elements of those list really define the place is where most people struggle and wherein the artistry lies.
Now this is something I can agree on, and not a bad exercise to work on showing. You know, writing a list of details about a room and selecting two details that really define it.

Quote:
See? The reader didn't even get Neville's race right! (If we take Rowling's mental image of Neville to be the "right" one, anyway.) And what does it matter. Not at all. Not one single iota. Spelling it out would just be pointless detail.
Would I have included that example if I were writing an actual story? Most likely not, but I glanced over it in one paragraph.

I mean, it's one example in one paragraph I glanced over. I didn't think it was that big of a deal on what I used, but apparently it was the biggest decision of this lesson. I think you missed the point. I covered the part where you only include necessary details in an earlier lesson, and I'm wondering if you even went back to read the previous ones. I appreciate the feedback, and you do have some really good points, but the example wasn't even a big part of the lesson, and I think you blew it out of proportion. If it really bothers you, I'll use an example that carries more weight in more stories next time.
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Old May 12th, 2014, 11:15 PM
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"John was in a cave". Well, that's telling. Now describing the dank smell and stalagmites, that's more showing. I guess you would call it descriptive imagery, but I group it in with showing, since you're pulling the reader in and showing them the surroundings.
Okay, fair. If you put it that way, I'm fine with it. I don't see how “John was a boy with shaggy, dark brown hair and green eyes” is telling and “John paused for a moment to brush his dark brown hair out of his eyes, green eyes.” is showing by that definition, however. I hate to keep coming back to that example, but you really don't have many explicit examples, so I don't have a lot to fall back on.

Quote:
I'll agree with you up to a point. Was that the best example I could have provided? No, but that wasn't my concern. The example was just a passing glance in the lesson, and I didn't spend much time on it because it was just there for people like me who need examples in order to learn. In other words, it's not that important. I still felt like my point was made, and that's really all I needed.
Well, the point was that the first sentence was supposed to be an example of telling and the second of showing, right? But the second sentence isn't an example of showing, so how did it make your point? It's not so much that it's not a good sentence--it isn't--but that it's misleading.

Quote:
I think this is more determined by the story. If the main character thinks John is the most gorgeous thing to ever walk the face of the earth, then some description would be nice to get some idea of what the main character is swooning over. As for your point, I covered that point in one of my earlier lessons, so don't worry. Only include what you need to know. Which, is determined by the story. Since I wasn't actually writing a story here, I thought it didn't really matter.
Heh, well I said I was oversimplifying a bit in the previous post; it's not like I think it's evil to talk about a character's appearance or anything. To be more explicit and sticking to this specific example, I think that description is good when it provides information necessary for understanding the plot or provides characterization. In this case, I think the primary purpose describing the love interest would serve is to characterize the person attracted to them (the main character, I guess), not actually to say anything about what the pretty person looks like. Again, details of that characters' appearance are going to fade from readers' minds unless you keep reinforcing them for some reason. They just don't matter. But what's interesting in mentioning what, specifically, the main character appreciates--this indicates, to some extent, what they value, which is close to the core of what makes them who they are. That's absolutely vital for the reader to understand. So viewed in that light, sure, what the person looks like, in terms of specific details, could be very important information--but only insofar as they reveal something about the main character, not insofar as they talk about the character being described. Now there's plenty of cases where that would still be completely pointless information to include (Does she like redheads? No one cares.), but it at least has the potential to do important work if handled correctly.

Anyway, yeah, it's good that you included that point in a previous lesson. It's definitely important. It's just that the material in this lesson doesn't reflect that principle so much, which strikes me as a bit inconsistent. If you want to talk about the principles of good writing, you're going to want to try and make sure you're applying them consistently, right? It's not like what you were talking about in the past should just get thrown out now that you're moving on to a new topic.

Quote:
I mean, it's one example in one paragraph I glanced over. I didn't think it was that big of a deal on what I used, but apparently it was the biggest decision of this lesson. I think you missed the point. I covered the part where you only include necessary details in an earlier lesson, and I'm wondering if you even went back to read the previous ones. I appreciate the feedback, and you do have some really good points, but the example wasn't even a big part of the lesson, and I think you blew it out of proportion. If it really bothers you, I'll use an example that carries more weight in more stories next time.
Sorry, but it does really bother me! I see people recommending stuff like that particular sentence all the time, and the more it gets recommended, the more it gets propagated, see? It's flat-out bad writing and I'd prefer not to see it get held up as an example of anything but, and to do what I can to stop it from getting passed along as advice to other people in the future. Also, while I do really dislike that one example in particular, it's more just a symptom of what I think is a lack of clarity in the lesson in general. I think I have a better idea of what you were trying to get across now, but I think that what you've written here doesn't reflect your point very well.

Obviously you're welcome to do whatever you like with it, leave it or change it, but I wanted to at least voice my disagreement, and my criticism of it stands.

Last edited by Negrek; May 12th, 2014 at 11:31 PM. Reason: and then I completely forgot to finish an entire paragraph gj self
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Old May 21st, 2014, 01:42 AM
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While both of you raise interesting points, I think you're forgetting Neg that this is meant to be a lesson for beginning writers... well, mostly anyways. Slayr... Nolafus, gets the basics down, which is most important. When I beta for new writers one of the lessons I ALWAYS end up sharing is the "Show don't tell" lesson. At least with what's been put in this thread, new writers have a basic idea of what to do, or what their beta's have been talking about.

To me, showing not telling exactly what's on the tin. Showing is using words and descriptions indicative of showing something to someone, and telling is using a simple explanation. "It was dark inside the cave." All right, I get what you're saying, but let's show not tell. "The cave was pitch black. David couldn't even see his hands in front of his face." The first sentence is telling. The cave was dark. But the second one is telling us HOW dark.

I agree, description is an important part of showing not telling. Maybe not plain description so much as a perspective.

To me showing not telling is letting the reader get inside a character's head. As writers we have the unique chance to plant ideas into someone's head. We have the chance to make them feel what we want them to feel. That is the ultimate goal I think of writing isn't it? To make a connection? And showing not telling is a tool that let's you get to that point.

Showing not telling is the tool that takes us from being newscasters to authors.
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Old May 23rd, 2014, 10:06 PM
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While both of you raise interesting points, I think you're forgetting Neg that this is meant to be a lesson for beginning writers...
Oh, no, I definitely have that in mind. It seems to me like you want to be as clear and correct as possible in what you're saying when you're talking to newbies, since they're generally the easiest to confuse, and what they learn early on will be hard for them to unlearn later. I'm not confident someone would get the right idea about what to do from the content of this lesson.

Quote:
"It was dark inside the cave." All right, I get what you're saying, but let's show not tell. "The cave was pitch black. David couldn't even see his hands in front of his face." The first sentence is telling. The cave was dark. But the second one is telling us HOW dark.
Mmm, the second one is saying how dark the cave is, specifically, yes, but it's not showing; it's still telling us things: that the cave was dark (pitch dark, specifically), and that it was so dark that David can't see his hands in front of his face. The second example is more explicit, detailed description of the cave, which is fine, but it's not showing.

Showing is about implication rather than making statements. If you want to show that a cave is dark, you never come out and say it, as you did in your second example. If you wanted to show how dark a place was, something like this would be more in line with what you'd want:

Quote:
David stumbled, practically fell against the wall as he tripped over something fetid and squelching. He pawed desperately around on the smooth metal surface, feeling for a light switch, for a weapon, for anything that might give him a way out of here.
The room is clearly dark, but this fact is never stated. Instead, it's implied through the actions and reactions of the primary character.
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Old May 24th, 2014, 12:34 AM
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Originally Posted by Negrek
I'm not confident someone would get the right idea about what to do from the content of this lesson.
From one example? Really?

Okay, I once again will pull the "you're taking this way too far" card. It's one example. Stop acting like the entire lesson just turned sour.
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Old May 24th, 2014, 03:25 AM
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They've already sort of ruined it. This was one of the few things bringing life back to FF&W.

So thanks, Neg, for that. If you want to rip people's posts apart for no reason other than to feel smart how about you go back to, say another site and do it there?

Honestly, I think Nolafus did a fine job with this lesson. While it may not be up to your amazingly high standards of writing, it is more than enough to jump start beginner writer's in the right direction.

Meh I'm not the best to be giving examples. I have a rather unique writing style.
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Old May 24th, 2014, 08:51 PM
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From one example? Really?
No, not just for one example. The example was, after all, only one of the things I brought up in my original post. My primary complaints are that the definition the lesson gives of "show don't tell" is incorrect and the advice it gives for implementing the technique is unclear and perhaps misleading.

Phantom, that seems a bit dramatic. I realize that it's not fun to have someone jump on you out of nowhere about a post you made, but all I did was say that I disliked the way Nolafus presented this topic. I don't think dissent is really that much of a cardinal sin? It's not like I said he was a terrible person for writing this, or that I thought the whole idea of the lesson plan was bad, or that he should stop doing things like this at all. Overall I think the program was a good idea, and it's nice to see him trying to boost activity in this section. I don't think that this means whatever he puts out as writing advice is exempt from criticism, but neither would I ever suggest that he had ruined everything or that he should go crawling off to some other forum and feel ashamed of himself just because he posted something that I happen to disagree with.
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Old May 26th, 2014, 04:06 PM
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To be fair about the whole criticism thing, and I know because I have been told in other communities I am guilty of this, messages carry a tone that is sometimes different from what one has written on screen. Or on keyboard. Or whatever.

Without intent to presume that I can do better, what I can see in Negrek's posts is mostly a lack of "sandwiching" (basically, encasing constructive criticism in supportive commentary). Now, that's not bad in and of itself, but it and the way most paragraphs are started seem to carry the idea that the intended message is a tirade of "I found these things that are wrong!". Still, that's only my biased read of them.

Anyway, on to the actual show vs tell issue, I can see there is a good debate about what is "show vs tell", what each of the component is and even how to teach them; however, one question that's left hanging in my mind is that, so far, you both make "show vs tell" look as a thing where the only "correct" side is the "show" side. But are there situations where it is better to tell than to show? I mean, the duality has to exist for a reason. And if so, how does one identify such "do tell" moments?
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Old May 26th, 2014, 04:38 PM
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Originally Posted by solovino View Post
But are there situations where it is better to tell than to show? I mean, the duality has to exist for a reason. And if so, how does one identify such "do tell" moments?
An author that I follow has said that something that you should always "tell" in a story is the character's motivation. Why they do the things they do can't be shown. The author has to tell it (whenever it's right for the character to reach that decision).

That's really the only clear advice I got for when it's better to tell rather than show.
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Old May 27th, 2014, 04:34 AM
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I feel that telling is just more blunt and direct than showing - more to the point, taking only a few words when showing usually is more subtle, and often more roundabout. I'd say it can offer a fair bit used to be clear in explaining something to the reader - such as, as Astinus said, a character's motivation - or for effect (say, telling an important event abruptly, e.g. 'He pulled the trigger.' could enhance the shock).
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