March 18, 2014

Show, Not Tell

Dear M,

This Show, Not Tell thing baffles me. In fact, I remember first being baffled by it 5-6 years ago. I have not come far from there. It is very clear in theory. But when to apply it? How to apply it?

Actually we can apply it in every single scene. But it will become tedious and boring to the reader. There are places where we should tell, without showing and get past them quickly, because a major scene is coming where we will have all the showing to do. So we need to judge where it is needed, and where it is not.

Now, how to do showing and not telling. I wrote about it in different forms here and here.

Something came to me recently, while I was watching a movie. How does the director tell us what the protagonist is thinking, or what kind of a person she is?

He does not appear on the scene and tell us oh, she is a real tiger, isn't she?

He shows us. He throws her into a situation, and asks her to react. She tells us in her behaviour, in her choices, in her decisions, in her expressions, in her words.

In an ideal story, that is what I would like to do, too. (I am not saying that is how all writers should decode the Show, Not Tell concept. It varies with each writer.)

I want to write detached, as though I am a mere observer, making a note of what is right before my eyes.

Her eyes widened, I would say, because I saw it. She said, I would never do that, I would say.

She got into the bus hesitatingly, I would say, because I saw her hesitate. Forget the adverb.

Those are things I see - not what I read from her mind. I do not want to get into the characters' minds more than necessary. I just want to be the one who jots down what's visible.

Would that be possible, without doing any analysis of the scenes before me, without getting into minds and spilling everything out for the reader. I believe it is possible. But will such a read be interesting?

Remains to be seen!


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