I’ve often been asked (though I don’t have any idea why some people think I have the authority) about how to differentiate between ‘showing and telling’ when it comes to writing. Now, before I go on, I would like to include the fact that I’ve been working as a copyeditor for a month and a half now, in one of the most reputable publishing houses here in my place (hint: it’s a university press). Also, I have no idea how that even relates to this writing tidbit I’m about to share.
So, ‘showing vs telling’ huh? It’s every budding writer’s worst enemy. And one of the things these younglings — before I forget, May the Fourth be with you! — seem to struggle to understand. But fear no more my friends, for this ‘showing vs telling’ thing is pretty easy to comprehend, because, first of all, that’s basically what it means. ‘Showing’ means showing, and ‘telling’ means telling. When you show, you describe, sometimes, in detail. And when you tell, well, you just tell. Here’s an example of me talking about an old school library:
(Telling): “The library was old.”
(Showing): “The paved path leading to the library was missing bricks in places, and I couldn’t shake the feeling of a hundred invisible eyes watching me as I walked by. Once I passed the hardwood doors, I could almost swear my own ears caught the faint echoes of voices that were long gone.”
You have to understand that one isn’t necessarily better than the other. In my case, when I write, I use them both. I tell stuff that I think isn’t really necessary (Her foot hurt, so she went ahead and took an aspirin.) And I show stuff I know will be essential to my story (Her face was like a diamond, with a wide forehead and a delicate chin. Ringlets of what could have been ebony hair fell down to her waist. He could only imagine dark hazel eyes, sensual and imploring as they gazed at him, lifeless like the rest of her. As he stared, he wondered whether those cold, dead lips would feel real, if not close to real, as the statue’s hands.)
Take note, a story that is pure telling will be boring, while a story that is pure showing will be dragging — tiring, even. Right now, I can’t tell you what would work well with your story, or how much of each you should use, but I’m sure you’ll find it out soon. Just keep writing and before you know it, you’ll finally bring balance to the force (your writing. Sorry, I just had to make one last Star Wars related pun.)