Too Much Show

04 Mar

Had someone said that to me two weeks ago, my answer would have been, “No such thing.” Now, I’m not so sure. Last week Carolyn Kaufman posted a article on the QueryTracker blog called But How Do You FEEL About That. I probably would have skimmed the post and otherwise ignored it, if not for one of my reviewers saying things like, “What did Jaimie feel when he saw her there…” and “Maybe some internal chatter to show us his initial reaction.” and “I know you ‘Show us’ through the dialogue…just expand upon [the emotions] a bit.”

In her post Kaufman talks about how her writing was often described as cinematic and she took pride in that. Until one reviewer explained something in a way that no one else had before. Explaining that, while her writing reads like a movie, books aren’t movies. The key distinction between the two (aside from the whole reading thing) is the ability of a book to get inside a character’s head. The reader wants to know what the character is thinking and feeling.

In my own stories, I’ve noticed that I describe almost entirely the action. I show what they’re doing and saying, and tell about their facial expressions and movements. But I don’t put in many thoughts and emotions. In part, I think that was due to just trying to get the scenes out of my head, thinking I could add the details later. Then, the time crunch of the group kicked in and I posted it before I got around to it. But really, a large part was actively trying not to “Tell” the story.

Do a google search on showing vs. telling and you’ll find a million articles explaining the evils of telling. Read agent blogs and hear about the auto reject button for telling. I didn’t want my book to be one of those form rejections. So I avoided telling like the plague. Perhaps that’s not the best option. All things in moderation, might be called for.


Happy Writing!


Posted by on 2010/03/04 in Writing


4 responses to “Too Much Show

  1. Stevie

    2010/03/04 at 13:50

    I agree, telling does have it’s time and it’s place to be done. And while we should show that a character is sad, we should tell the reader why. I mean they might be sad because so-and-so called them retarded OR they could be said because maybe so-and-so called them retarded and they have a sibling/parent/friend who is.

    Keep blogging!

    – Stevie

    • Candice Beever

      2010/03/04 at 18:08

      Thanks for the read Stevie. That’s true. There could be so many other levels behind the feelings and those can be explored to really add depth to the character and the story.

  2. Suzette Saxton

    2010/03/04 at 20:43

    I agree, it was a great article! It got me thinking as well.

  3. rachelhamm

    2010/03/05 at 09:06

    I hate the show vs. tell rule. With a passion. I think that sometimes the story doesn’t work if you don’t tell the backstory behind it as well. And backstory, feelings, thoughts, etc. just cannot be shown. I recently re-read The Jane Austen Book Club, by Karen Joy Fowler, and I’d say 75% of the book is telling. And you know what? It’s a REALLY FREAKING GOOD BOOK.

    So I say, tell away!


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