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Showing versus Telling #2

Okay, so last week I discussed the importance of showing versus telling, but this week, I wanted to actually create some examples of this writing skill.  Before I do, however, I want to mention that this is something I’m struggling with, something I’m still trying to improve upon.  If you want to take any of my example sentences and “show” them even more, you are welcome to!

Example #1 (Telling): The couple was obviously angry with each other.

Example #2 (Telling and including the narrator’s feelings): I shifted uncomfortably, trying my best to ignore the arguing couple.

Example #3: (Showing): The woman snapped her napkin open, and then dropped it on her lap.  She reached for her fork, but even after several moments, still hadn’t touched her food.  The man ignored her, staring at the massive TV screen above the bar.  I thought perhaps he’d failed to notice the woman fuming across from him, but every time he chugged his beer, his eyes peered at her from the edge of his mug.  Once our eyes met, but I hastily looked away, shifting in my seat until they were no longer in my line of sight.

This is just one example of showing versus telling.  You can see how when an author shows something, the reader is a part of the journey.  They get to experience the couple’s anger, but more than that, they become involved in the story.  One reader may side with the woman, having experienced the frustration of eating a meal with someone who fails to pay attention to them.  While another reader may side with the man, knowing how frustrating it can be to have the passive aggressive behaviors of a dinner companion ruin their meal.  If the author had simply said, “the couple was obviously angry with each other,” the reader would shrug and accept what the author told them.

One reason I find that I often fall into the trap of telling instead of showing is that the moment or detail doesn’t seem important enough to spend too much time on.  But the truth of the matter is that if the detail isn’t important, it shouldn’t be included in my book.  And, there are ways to show a little more without creating a huge paragraph.

Example #1 (Telling): The house was a mess.

Example #2 (Telling and including the narrator’s feelings): I cringed as I entered the messy home.

Example #3 (Showing): I cringed as a rat scurried between one moldy pizza box and a pile of leftover dishes, and prayed I could leave the sad-excuse for a house soon.

I hope these examples helped to explain showing versus telling a little better.  Taking the time to write this blog, and create my own sentences, definitely helped me to improve in this area.

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