Writing Tip: Showing & Telling

“Show, don’t tell,” is writing advice freely given and often repeated. The basic premise is that writing, “. . .and so Suzanne went to bed happy,” is–generally–weaker writing than showing us a scene in which Suzanne is talking or doing things that allow the reader to conclude that she is happy.

As with all rules and guidelines, consider your goal. In general, I suggest showing important actions or events in dialogue and/or behavior. For less important but necessary bits, use exposition to summarize things no one would really like to read. The process of getting there is a prime target. If your character needs to get from Richmond to Denver, put her in a car/train/plane or whatever in Richmond and get her out in Denver. Unless something important to the plot or character development happens en route, leave it at that. Skip the security check-in, over-proced airport food, fellow-passengers’ annoying cell phone conversations, etc.If something important does happen en route, show that as a scene and skip all the boring, predictable details of the before and after.

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