Play the Hand

03 Oct

Some people have the skill of showing and telling down pat. Even in life, they know when to give advice and when to be a quiet example. Mister’s Great Gram Joe was such a person. Gram Jo knew when to tell you to say your prayers. She sometimes mailed articles for you to read, and because she sent them, you did. She’d share when she didn’t like your hairstyle or even steal your Christmas gift if it was something she wanted. She had a strong personality, but still, she knew when to smile and nod and let you figure out how to play the hand life dealt you.

I’m trying to deal with this new hand, the one without Gram. This is why I missed Fridays’ post. I hope you understand.

Showing and telling in writing is just as complicated as in life. Some of us (namely, me) like to show every little move of the character. I often end up with too much detail and a way-too-long picture book. Other times, I just want toget the story out. I tell what happened instead, which can sometimes disinterest the reader.

I think a balance of showing and telling is best. Gail Carson Levine describes it as having a telescope and being able to adjust the zoom as you write.

But how do I know when to show and when to tell? My rule is, if it moves the story forward, it stays. If the detail about the wind blowing through my character’s auburn hair stops the action, then it has to go. On the other hand, if it somehow reveals something about my character that will come in to play later in the story, it stays.

MMostly, knowing when to show and when to tell just takes practice. And practice means writing.

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Posted by on October 3, 2011 in Writing As A Priority


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