Tag Archive - Show don’t tell

Why You Should Shoot Your Novel

There’s a whole lot more to “showing” than you think!

Sol Stein in his book Stein on Writing says, “Twentieth-century readers, transformed by film and TV, are used to seeing stories. The reading experience for a twentieth-century reader is increasingly visual. The story is happening in front of his eyes.”

This is even more true in the twenty-first century. As literary agent and author Donald Maass says in Writing 21st Century Fiction: “Make characters do something that readers can visualize.”

I mentioned that writers are told to show, not tell, yet they’re not shown how.

Here’s what I say in Shoot Your Novel:

There are myriad choices a writer has to make in order to “show” and not “tell” a scene. Writers are often told they need to show, which in essence means to create visual scenes the reader can “watch” unfold as they read.

But telling a writer to “show” is vague. Just how do you show? How do you transfer the clearly enacted scene playing in your mind to the page in a way that not only gets the reader to see just what you want her to see but also comes across with the emotional impact you intend?

Writers know that if they say “Jane was terrified,” that only tells the reader what Jane is feeling; it doesn’t show her terrified. So they go on to construct a scene that shows Jane in action and reacting to the thing that inspires fear in her. And somehow in doing so writers hope they will make their reader afraid too. Continue Reading…

Do You Really Know How to “Show, Don’t Tell”?

Part of fast-tracking to success lies in writing novels that readers can quickly sink their teeth into. That usually means getting quickly into story and characters in a visual, active way.

In other words, starting scenes with pages of explanation and narrative are a kiss of death for novels these days. Our society is entrenched in movies, TV shows, video games, and dynamic apps for all our devices. All this has influenced (contaminated?) the reader experience.

Readers today expect our novels to read like movies. They want to get right into a character’s POV, right into action, become immersed in worlds without delay.

If you’ve been writing novels for any length of time, you’ve probably heard the golden rule: Show, don’t tell. I have numerous blog posts on this topic, to help writers get what this is all about.

Here are some of the posts. If you have any question about what it means to show instead of tell, it would be well worth your while to read (or reread) these. Way too many aspiring novelists commit this fatal flaw, and as a result, their novels suffer. Continue Reading…

Scene Structure: Scenes as Segments and Capsules of Time

For this week’s Throwback Thursday, we’re looking at excerpts from past posts on Live Write Thrive that tie in with our exploration on scene structure.

From Show, Don’t Tell—But How?

Sol Stein, in his book Stein on Writing, says, “Twentieth-century readers, transformed by film and TV, are used to seeing stories. The reading experience for a twentieth-century reader is increasingly visual. The story is happening in front of his eyes.” This is even more true in the twenty-first century. As literary agent and author Donald Maass says in Writing 21st Century Fiction: “Make characters do something that readers can visualize.”

We’ve heard it countless times: show, don’t tell. Sounds simple, right? Wrong. There are a myriad of choices a writer has to make in order to “show” and not “tell” a scene. Writers are often told they need to show, which in essence means to create visual scenes the reader can “watch” unfold as they read. Continue Reading…

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