Exercise 5: Getting comfortable with showing and telling

On Wednesday, I went over some of the differences between showing and telling and gave you a few examples. This is one of those things that can be tricky for new writers to master, especially if–like me–they had a teacher or a critique partner riding them for ever telling anything at all.

You need balance. A story that’s all showing is going to have pacing issues; it’s going to bog down and drag, and your readers will get tired of it. A story that’s all telling will lack depth; your readers won’t be able to relate to your plot or characters, and the pacing will either be too fast or too slow.

I feel like one of the best ways to learn that balance is to start with doing some analytical reading. So for today’s exercise, we’re going to read instead of write.

Get out a favorite book, and either a couple of highlighters in different colors or a notepad and a couple of pens in different colors. Assign a color to showing and a color to telling. Read a few scenes and either highlight or make notes when the author shows or tells in their writing. Then ask yourself whether you would have done the same in their situation. If you would have written it differently, try to figure out why and what you would have done instead.

Don’t feel like you have to do the whole book, unless you just really want to. A couple of scenes, or maybe even a chapter or two, will probably be enough to help you grasp the concept.

Image Credit: Hutomo Abrianto, Unsplash

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