PSA-Show, don’t tell! #amwriting

I’ve been reading for review a plethora of indie authors’ works.

Please, please SHOW me the story.  Don’t tell me or I’ll start skipping pages.  I read books to immerse my imagination into a different world, not to be a passive receptacle for your story.

I have three examples and will only name names on the positive one.

First up is a little story, a romance, about two people who’ve found their way back to each other.  We’re told why she’s in the place she is, we’re told why he’s suddenly there.  Tell tell tell, blah blah blah. Don’t care.  The story doesn’t even start until their eyes meet because it’s a romance.  Can’t the author just use the characters’  conversation to tell us the backstory the author just told us?  Can’t we see and feel what it’s like for the couple to link up after a decade or so apart and pining for each other?  Nope!  The author needs to tell us every little thing, which was blah and “Make it stop!!”

The second is a good sized book that I sampled and am not interested in buying.  It’s very erotic so that’s fun, but is way heavy on the tell.  Every little detail of their surroundings, people, everything, is described and most often in passive voice.  The only time this isn’t going on is during the goings on.  Sex is the only show in this tale of tell.  Which could be a great literary device if the author wanted only the sex to be exciting and all that character development stuff to be dull filler as contrast.  I skimmed it because blah blah blah.  I was relieved to reach the end of the sample that it was over at last.

The third? It’s a first person memoir that by all rights should be dull.  Something you read to fall asleep.  I’ve been writing and going to writer events for twenty years and have had many many people tell me “I’m writing my life story because it’s soooo interesting.”  99% of the time, no.  No, it isn’t.  Unless you’re Chuck Yeager, Richard Branson, or a Red Bull addicted spokesperson, don’t.  Just don’t.  Your mother does and even then she’s pretending.

Or so I thought until Thomas Sartain began telling me his story.  He had not only me but everyone at the conference enthralled, making my “Not another life story!!” thought obsolete.  I had the privilege to read his somewhat rough draft and it was amazing even in the rough.  He’s since published Thirty Days and a Wake Up, and it’s a wonderful book.  Told in first person, the story unfold in a shown way.  As the reader, you’re there when Thomas witnesses his first murder, when he leads his first robbery, and when he is first sent to prison. You feel what he feels and see only what he sees, not told about every single thing in his environment.  If you want to read a true, gritty, and gripping story, click the link above and at least read the sample.  It’s really worth the effort.

I could spend the rest of the post explaining exactly how and when to show versus tell.  Plus, there’s times when the story is better with a bit of telling instead of the constant show.  Instead, I’ll link to an article that creative writers really need to improve their work.  If you’re an author who truly wants to be the best you can be, go read the information.  I’ve skimmed through the first half.  When I hit publish on this post, I’m reading all of the article to see if there’s anything more I can learn and I’m pretty sure there is something I’ll need to know.

The Show Versus Tell Debate

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