The Saturday Morning Blogger – Show, don’t tell

The Saturday Morning Blogger – Show, don’t tell

James Barrington

I generally consider myself a pretty good writer, but that doesn’t mean I know all the rules to be a pretty good writer of fictional novels. That’s a whole different animal.

Four of our Wordsmithsix group got together this week to review our latest efforts at literary brilliance. I am constantly grateful for the input of my partners. I can see my work improving, but I recognize I still have a long way to go.

One (of many) writer rules I’m still struggling to learn and internalize is the “show, don’t tell” rule. I need to want to narrate a story instead of planting visual images in the minds of my readers. While that may be OK in a blog, it’s not acceptable in literary fiction. I have the rule pretty well fixed in my mind. My problem I haven’t fully grasped the application of how to follow that rule. I’m working on it, but it’s too easy for me to fall back into the narrator role. My wordsmithsix friends are very expert in pointing those issues out as I read my developing work. It seems like I make a few steps forward and then I have a tendency to slip on the narrative slope. Each time I’m caught doing that, I get another lesson. Hopefully I’m learning.

The concept I’m working on internalizing is letting the characters in the story reveal facts through their dialogue rather than simply spelling it out. Telling is much simpler, but not nearly as interesting.

“So on I worked, and waited for the light,

And went without the meat, and cursed the bread…” (with a tip of the hat to Edward Arlington Robinson).

And hopefully “show not tell” will take roots in my creative system and become a natural thing.

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