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Show! Don't Tell! - Susan-Alia Terry

Show! Don’t Tell!

Nov 8, 2018 | Writing

Hello, my name is Susan and it’s been six months since my last update.

Holy crap, how did that happen?

I was sure that my next post would be about finally sending Dreaming in Shadow (Book 2 in the Coming Darkness series) off to my betas. Maybe that’s why it took me so long. No post until done! Well, since I swooshed past my Nov 1 deadline because I’m still wrangling the beast, I figured I’d stop being silly and drop in to say hello.

I’ve been steadily working on these final revisions—this last pass in preparation for a cover to cover read through before I send it out. Halfway through chapter 18 (of 20), I realized I was starting to do more telling than showing. Arg. It’s something I’ve noticed other authors do, and I totally get it. As we get closer and closer to the end, we get lazy, and we want. it. done! Instead of rounding corners, we cut them off altogether, but it makes the story’s ending feel rushed. I’m always disappointed when I come across it, and I’d rather not do it in my own work.

As I was making my revisions, and thinking about the admonishment “Show, don’t tell”, it occurs to me that it doesn’t come with enough caveats. You can’t show EVERYTHING, and why would you want to? If your character is using the toilet, unless something spectacular or dramatic happens, knowing they’re sitting on the john is enough tyvm! ? The emphasis on showing is a modern thing. A lot of older stories are heavy on the telling, and they’re just fine. I like to strive for balance. Show things that will enhance a reader’s understanding of a character, or as an immersive device to drop them deeper into the story and setting. By telling those snippets, I had glossed over and hamstrung moments that felt real. A story has rhythm and balance and I ignored all of it in my race to the finish line. The upside is that it’s not a lot of heavy lifting, most of that is long past. It’s just a hump in the road, and I have to slow down a bit. A nuisance, nothing more.

So, deep breath. Pour some wine. Let’s do this.


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