General · Writing

Show vs Tell: Proper Balance 2

I am reading Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction by Lisa Tuttle and this line jumped out at me:

Be concise. Explain less. Dramatize important scenes, but remember that despite the usual advice given to writers, on occasion, to keep the narrative flowing, information may be ‘told’ instead of ‘shown’.

This is a little amazing. This is probably the first time anyone has ever said that sometimes telling is better than showing.

When I first figured out the difference between showing and telling, I thought I had to show everything. I was slow to realize that I didn’t, that somethings are best told, that there needs to be a balance between showing and telling.

I felt guilty whenever I  ‘told’ something and searched for ways I could “show” it instead. Sometimes I let the tell stand. Often I wrote a scene and lots of times it seemed to me that the scene made it more complicated. Sometimes that was good. But sometimes it was too complicated and I would look for ways I could insert the info into two-line segments here and there.

Reading that bit of advice in Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction is reassuring. I mean, I was doing it, but there was also a little tingling doubt in the back of my head. It’s because pretty much everything I’ve ever read says, “Show, don’t tell.”

Do other do that? Feel guilty because they tell a piece of info instead of showing? Two lines of telling verses a hundred lines of showing.