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.

7 thoughts on “Show vs Tell: Proper Balance 2

  1. When I first learnt about show vs tell, I was like you and probably even over did it in my writing to the point when a reviewer said it was rare by I had too much showing… hehe. I learnt then the lesson of achieving a balancing act between the two. So, great advice from the book:)


    1. Yeah, it is. I’ve read this book before but I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before. Or maybe I just didn’t pay attention.

    1. Glad I could help! The book is pretty helpful.

      Thanks for subscribing! This is a wordpress blog, so it doesn’t have blogger follow me thing. Sorry, but the widgit for that is written in JavaScript and doesn’t allow JavaScript widgits. They say it’s a security issue.

      I use Google’s reader to keep track of other people’s blogs.

  2. That is reassuring. I’ve been working under the burden of the “show, don’t tell” mantra for years. Sometimes, telling is just better.

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