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Let's Talk A Bit About Show, Don't Tell

This is a great bugaboo with all writers. We are told to Show our world, not Tell people about it.
Well, there is some truth to that, but it’s not all horror show. There needs to be a good amount of Telling in your Novel, or else they would be a thousand pages long with all of the Showing.
A little Telling goes a long way, especially if you space it out between all of the Showing stuff. Just don’t give us an info-dump at the start of every chapter, as I have run across in some printed works. I know that we all get excited about the place our characters are in, and we want to tell everyone about it.
Give us readers time to adjust to the fact that we are in a fantastic place. Give us some smells, a distinct feature and some local character. Then jump into story time and give us what you’re really here for.
There’s a formula used by Pixar writer Andrew Stanton in a recent Ted Talk. It’s called the Unifying Theory of 2 + 2. “Make the audience put things together. Don’t give them 4. Give them 2 + 2.”

Here’s that talk:

I know that we often hear this as writers–incessantly, even. Here is a rebuttal. “Tell–tell me everything.” Thoughts?

To me, “show, don’t tell” is more of an adage advising to make sure the writing is dynamic and not static, that you’re using an active voice instead of a passive voice.

“She blinked” (to me) is an example of showing.
“Her eyes blinked” is an example of telling.

That’s always hot I interpreted the saying.

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Michael, both of your blinking examples are actually examples of showing.Telling is exposition. Showing is more sensory and action driven, and should give a sense of setting.

TELLING: Jane was an alcoholic.

SHOWING: It was closing time, but Jane was still going strong. As she looked at the bar tender, Jane now wondered why there were three of him. With a smile, she held out her glass and said, “One more?”

In general, showing is better because it’s more immersive for the reader (or viewer if it’s a film). However there is one great example of exposition in film. The scene in JAWS where Quint describes what happened to the Indianapolis, is riveting even though we’re only listening to Quint describe the event. That’s because his monologue still gives us a feel for what happened.

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