View Full Version : Showing vs Telling

07-08-2011, 04:05 PM
Since I mentioned this in a lot of critiques, I wanted to put some stuff out there for anyone interested. I do a ton of research daily, as part of my writing routine. What I rarely do is clean up and organize the links I save. Today I did, and I thought some of this might provide a good read for those interested. Hope this info is able to help someone else as well...






07-08-2011, 07:39 PM
Thanks for the links, Ken. I haven't checked them all out yet, but the first one has already proved helpful.

07-08-2011, 09:03 PM
So, after reading a few of the links, instead of:
"There were two of them, masked, holding shotguns"
This would be better?
"A faint breeze stirred the hairs on the back of my neck, and a Robin's joyful warbling mingled with the tinkling of the bell above the door,but all my mind processed when I turned to greet the customer was the seemingly large bore of the shotgun aimed at me."

Thanks for the links. Very helpful.

07-08-2011, 09:08 PM
Yup. Good stuff there.

07-08-2011, 09:20 PM
Well, if Michael Knost offers the class again, he does a great job. It's titled, "Show, Don't Just Tell," and was eye-opening. You need some telling. You just don't want to saturate your story with it. I would the think the same goes with going all show. Unless, ther is a certain dynamic you are aiming for. Personally, I think salt & pepper always works well in most cases.

07-09-2011, 12:45 AM
Ya know, I don't have tons of time to read - kid, work, new house, video games (I still write occasionally for a gamer website) - so get annoyed with overly flourished writing. Plus ADHD doesn't help . . .

Anyway, I like direct and to the point with little fluff. King is good at it and Laymon is the king of it. Koontz is OMG boring. But to each their own.

07-09-2011, 01:11 AM
Have you read any of the Koontz's Frankenstein series? It's really good. But, that is also the point I was trying to make. Too much show can get fluffy I think. Maybe too existential or something--some old homeless guy getting stoned and rattling off stuff. At least I think. I haven't read anything too much show as of yet. Too little will definitely sound like a robot speaking though. You need a good mix. I know that for sure. When I read my work I always put Howard Cossell's voice to it to check.

07-09-2011, 01:15 AM
i've ready jsut about every Koontz book as I like this stories. However, I can't often bear his style. I skip paragraphs; sometimes entire pages. i do happen to think his Frankenstein series moves quicker than most of his books

07-09-2011, 06:50 PM
After the 5th or 25th reference to "eye shine" in the first half of the first Frankenstein book I quit. I like Dean Koontz in audiobook. It makes for good commute time not wasted. I like his descriptions, but his adjectives get me frustrated. I met someone who had edited his stuff. When they told him that he needed to cut down on his adjectives, he told them that they've worked for him this long and he didn't plan to change his style. He's right. But I'm not Dean Koontz so I'll try to keep them out.

Too much telling is a big problem in beginner authors. I don't recall seeing too much showing. I'll have to keep that in mind as I go forward. It would interesting to see how it works. A balance is an obvious choice but leaning how to balance is the trick.

Now, it's off to read tons of more submissions that frequently spend the first page going over backstory in a very telling way.


07-09-2011, 09:02 PM
I love the concept of these Koontz stories more than anything. Bringing that monster back to life is a great thing.

I haven't seen an example of too much showing either. I would imagine it would come off too dreamy--like puff the magic dragon or something. But, that is merely speculation so don't take my comments on that seriously. You kind of need some telling to move things along I would think.

I agree though, the best is to find a happy place between the two, and adjust to what suits you and your readers.

Good luck on the reading, MLD.

07-10-2011, 04:26 PM
Good luck on the reading, MLD.

Thanks. I really need it.

I've been getting a ton of zombie stories or their derivatives. It’s easy to see that these stories are nothing special in the first page. Some of them are rather well done and I think they’d be better off sending to some kind of zombie anthology. The point is, we just don’t need to have what is already out there in abundance. But then I read one last night that was awesome! It was told from the viewpoint of a girl trapped in an apartment in a wheelchair. She was the victim of a horrible gang attack and is terribly disfigured. The entire story is more about her. Zombies or infected are not even mentioned. I find something like that and I feel there is hope for the genre.


07-10-2011, 05:22 PM
I hear ya. I typically only write zombie stuff for themed projects, and even then I try to do something different. In reality, even my online zombie serial isn't truly about zombies.

Draven Ames
07-11-2011, 01:09 AM
I'll look into these articles. Thank you.

Draven Ames

JJ Holden
07-11-2011, 05:28 AM
MLD, your comments regarding your reading marathon are developing into an extremely good guide on 'What Not To Submit'. Maybe not intentional as such, but very cool nevertheless.

07-11-2011, 05:36 AM
MLD, your comments regarding your reading marathon are developing into an extremely good guide on 'What Not To Submit'. Maybe not intentional as such, but very cool nevertheless.


07-18-2011, 04:00 AM
Okay, quick example.

Telling: Pete's neighbors were very helpful.
Showing: Pete's neighbors would bring the mail up for him some days. John would mow the lawn for Pete some weeks and plow the driveway in the winter. And Mary would often bring over soup or dessert when she made too much.

Is the list really better? Or should those examples be spread out to avoid the list.

Opinions welcome.

07-18-2011, 04:39 AM
This is why I think Michael Knost's class "Show, Don't just Tell" was so helpful for me. I'm not claiming to be an expert of course, but in the last few weeks my writing has changes significantly, and even appears to still be changing. It's a matter of when things click on certain things I think.

For me, the telling part would be useful with details that the reader needs to know, but aren't so important. But you want to use your showing in dramatic points, to create a mood. It's the difference between telling someone John killed his neighbor, and discussing the act blow by blow. This could include a lot of things such as how he holds the knife, the way the blood splatters, the sounds, what part of the body is being punctured, etc. This can make the scene very visual, and three dimensional.

My point before was, as with all things, too much of a good thing can be bad. I've never read a story chock full of showing to the point it came off fluffy, but I would imagine too much would slow the pace down. Pacing is very important in a story as well. However, if the goal is to do that, than it might not be so bad.

So you have decide, what things does my reader just need to hear in detail, versus the things they just need to hear in passing. You might foreshadow with great detail and showing, only eluding to your plot. It would be slow, and the reader would be engaged. If you were telling, they might pass by very quickly, and not catch your point. But some things just aren't so important, and yet they make the story move.

I do think your example works better in itself, but I am unsure of how it would work within a story without reading it. Just my current thoughts n the matter. Hope this was helpful.