Friday, August 23, 2013

Showing vs. Telling - When Telling is Okay

Happy Friday, good people of the blogosphere! I hope you're all looking forward to the weekend as much as I am. I see so much in reviews about showing vs telling. Today, I'm going to explain why telling is okay now and then, how to gauge when to do it, and when not to. So, grab those pens and notebooks and let's get going!

I wrote a post a while back on tension. This is the meat and potatoes of my discussion today. If you haven't read it, do that now so you understand what I mean when I say 5 or 1.

Every chapter of your book should hit at least a 2 or 3 on the tension scale. A 5 should be reserved for those special chapters where you want your reader to bite their nails. Never should you fall below a 1. So what does this have to do with showing and telling?

When you want your reader to feel what's happening on the page, show them everything about the scene: Lay of the land, emotions of the MC, action taking place, what could happen, what is happening, and actions/reactions of other characters.

But to get to that place, sometimes it's okay to tell. While you don't want long passages of filler, you may want to move things along without bogging your reader down in excessive description. I've discussed this before; here's the link: Descriptions - How Much is Too Much?

When the tension is high, launch into those descriptions in vivid detail. Every scene should be rated on the tension scale and adjusted accordingly. A reader won't tolerate scenes with a rating of 0; so, if you find such a scene, either cut it or re-write it.

But, when getting to those moments that bring your scene to the most tense point, you can tell rather than show. The ebb and flow of your story is natural, and should be allowed to happen.

Remember! You can please some of the people, some of the time; but you can't please all of the people, all of the time. In a group of ten, some will love it, others will hate it. Don't let opinions drag you down. After all, there will be people who loathe even the most popular books.

I hope this helps you in some tiny way.

What book gave you too much description or plodded along with chapters ranking 0?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!



  1. Replies
    1. Thanks, bas! Good to see you around again. I hope you had a fantastic summer! :)

  2. Very useful information. I've been trying to find the right balance of show and tell. This helps out a lot.

    1. It's a difficult balance to achieve. I still struggle with it at times. But my readers call me out when I don't do it where I should :) Thanks for the blog luv, Sakinah!

  3. Can you give 1-2 specific examples (either from well-known published books, or just made-up) on this tip, Jo?
    I would appreciate it, thanks!

    1. I have indulged thee on the blog today, Helene. Thanks for the comment. Sorry it took me so long to answer (been knee-deep in NaNo). Huggles!


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