We've all heard it. Show, don't tell. There's too much telling. I don't want you to tell me, you need to show me. Well that's all fine and good, but huh?
I've gone back and forth over the past year trying to wrap my mind around this concept. At its core it makes sense. Sure, we're telling a story but a good writer shows what's going on, allowing the reader to visualize the scenario.
I'm reading The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman and had an a-ha moment last night. The chapter titled "Showing Versus Telling" opens with the following:
Don't tell me you love me. Show me.
A-ha! I can certainly relate to that. How many of you have said that (or at least thought it) to a loved one? I don't mean to alienate the male readers, but typically this is something women say to men. We complain that your actions don't show the love you say you feel. We don't want words, we insist, we want action.
Mmm-hmmm. Show, don't tell.
Lukeman goes on to say:
Another problem with telling is that it makes a text read more like a synopsis than a work of art. With this type of writing, you often walk away feeling as if you've read an outline of a story, a description of what's supposed to happen, of what characters are supposed to be like, but you don't feel as if you've experienced any of it, as if you've walked in the characters' shoes, cried or dodged bullets with them.
After reading the chapter I think I've done a fairly good job of catching myself when I'm about to tell. There are several scenes where I start by saying "Mateo watched as the woman crossed the room." By dropping "Mateo watched," it turns into showing. "The woman walked across the room." I've already established that the story is told from Mateo's perspective; I don't need to keep reminding the reader.
I hope this helps those of you struggling with showing vs. telling.