Monday, November 17, 2008

Show Me The Way

“Show the reader what the character is experiencing and let the reader figure out the rest (weather, crowds, etc)” -- Gillian Roberts in You Can Write a Mystery.
This quote adds clarity to the mantra show don’t tell for me. If a character (I’ll call him Angus) walks down the street holding an umbrella over his head and stepping around puddles, the reader should figure out it’s raining. Examples of the difference might be:
It’s raining, today. It’s a Monday. Of course, it’s raining.

Angus lowered his umbrella to shield his eyes from a gust of wind that forced the rain into a sideways pattern. “This makes three Mondays in a row,” he muttered.
I’m better at showing my characters and their actions to the reader than when I started writing, but I still catch instances where I tell too much. I’ve read there are times when telling is okay. For example, a story’s pacing may improve if the writer tells the reader certain things. I don’t need to show the reader every turn Angus takes on his trip to work if this isn’t important to the story.

I struggle with knowing when it’s necessary to show the reader what’s happening as opposed to when telling will suffice. Maybe Microsoft will come up with software similar to it’s grammar checking program to flag showing versus telling. :)

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