Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Eliza asks an Editor...

(E) I'm going to ask Frances Sevilla, Faery Rose Editor with The Wild Rose Press to elaborate on "Showing vs Telling."
(F) ...Thanks, Eliza. I recently went into great detail with an author friend of mine, on the subject of 'showing' action in a story rather than 'telling' action. I've read three books lately by well-known authors who got lazy with their writing and fell into the 'telling' trap.

What do I mean by 'lazy'?  Well, you can TELL me, he was scared. But it's more exciting and satisfying for you to SHOW me how he felt. He trembled, the chill ran up his spine, and his heart pounded in his chest so loud he could hear it in his head. 

The one word 'scared' says it all. But as a reader, I want to know what scared felt like. I want to experience the action as if I was the one in the story feeling the fear.

Every time I see a single word describing an action or a feeling, I wonder if there's a more definitive way of getting the reader to experience it for him/herself.

Show me the pan is hot, show me the ice is cold, show me the sun is bright, the hero is bold, the heroine is angry.

The water dripped into the pan and sizzled to steam. That ice should be sharp, hard, and crystalline. The sun has to blind the reader, force his/her hand to shade his/her eyes. The hero should walk into the room and sit down without invitation. The heroine should glare at him and walk out.

That's showing...

That's a simplistic example, but I hope it helps define the difference between SHOWING and TELLING a story.
(E) Frances, great examples. Thanks for sharing that. Maybe you can return and discuss another writing topic for our readers.
(F) I'd love to. Thanks for inviting me today.


  1. Great post Eliza! Thanks, Frances, for the great advice.

  2. Awesome post! I enjoyed the interview with Frances...very informative!