Re: “Show, don’t tell” is stupid advice.

I thought of a certain example to describe this. 

So imagine you have a group of characters who are headed to a new land, with almost no knowledge of the land and people. 

I have had a number of times where this scenario has popped up within my own writing. 

Now, I have noticed that there are two ways in which I will usually approach this. 

Method 1: Write a "Tell" scene where it describes the position, culture, mindset, and status of the people. I explain here the reason for the way things are, and their mindset. Perhaps I even write a few scenes with some characters in this culture to best show this mindset off. 

Ah, side note- I understand that the term 'show don't tell' is very ambiguous, so I have come up with my own personal definition which I will use. 

Showing and not telling is defined by me as portraying something through a scene, as opposed to just coming out and straight up informing people. 

Now, after doing my little 'telling' scene, I will then thrust my own main characters into this built culture and landscape, and they will interact with the people and so on and so forth. 

Method 2: I will not say anything at first about the new culture, and rather just throw my characters in there with little information on who they are or their cultures and practices. They will see this for themselves as they walk through these cities and places. 

However, there is one particular thing I must note with this method. 

When I use this method, there will always be a scene after the fact where I directly tell everyone. 

"Hey, in case you didn't infer what's going on here, this is what was actually happening."

I will almost always use one of these 2 methods. I think the 2nd one is better, however I will say there have been cases where I used the first one where it worked out very well, or at least from my own perspective. 

Now what is the similarity?

They both have points of "Tell scenes" where I do nothing but information dump. 

A lot of people tend to hate information dumps, but I always end up looking at my writing and feeling that if I don't explain this, that nobody will ever get it. For example, say I want to explain someone's past without spending chapters writing up their backstory and creating characters and scenes to that end. I'mma just say. "This person did this when they were younger, and this happened."

And when it comes to the history of entire cities and countries, there's no way to "Show" this unless we are gonna write an entire textbook. 

So I tell. Sure, I could keep it hidden and have everyone infer, but what is a story without lore? I can't sit right if I know my readers might not understand something. I hate when authors hide something and make it super vague, and then everyone gets into debate over it. I have a message to send, not a debate to create. 

At any rate, the point here is that I don't think not telling is ever appropriate. Many have told me "Don't underestimate your viewers like that", but when I'm literally purposely hiding things from them it's not acceptable. 

Therefore, at some point in all my stories, I usually do have at least one point where I go ahead and just spill the beans to everyone. 

"Hey. You just witnessed this character do this that and the other. Here's why."

Re: “Show, don’t tell” is stupid advice.

Haven't read all these messages because dang there's a lot, but here's my two cents.

For me, "showing" and "telling" lie on a spectrum, with complete "showing" being describing everything that happens in excruciating detail and complete "telling" being a one-sentence spoiler for the entire story. 

Of course, as with most things, the real answer lies somewhere in the middle, and you have to go up or down the show-tell spectrum depending on the context of the scene. For example, final battles with high emotional stakes are normally not the time to summarize, whereas your MC waking up and brushing their teeth probably doesn't need to be described in minute detail. 

Re: “Show, don’t tell” is stupid advice.


Apocryphal Wrote: Thoughts?

I think there's a distinction between telling how a character feels about something, and trying to tell the reader how the reader should feel.

John was driving a Ferrari Dino 246 GT which, if you haven't seen one, is very cool.   Jane accepted his offer of a ride.


Jane yawned.   She's stayed later than normal at weekly Friday evening after-work coffee social, because John had offered her a lift home so she didn't have to leave half-way though Claire's photocopier story in order to catch the last bus.   She's seen John around before, but he hadn't made much of an impression upon her, one way or the other, and she'd never said much more to him than a passing "Hi".

But Claire had vouched for him, and mentioned Jane might like his sports car.   Yeah, right.   Claire thought any car with a broken muffler and bolted on spoilers was a sports car.   Jane knew better; her Pop was an engineer, and growing up she'd spent many pleasurable hours with him, getting greasy under projects he worked on in his spare time.

She tuned the corner and saw John standing next to a low slung Ferrari, holding the door open for her, a shy grin on his face.   A Ferrari Dino?   It had been decades since they made those, yet this one was immaculate, from the bronze paint that shone darkly in the dim light, to the wide wheels that flowed into the aerodynamic shape.   It looked alive, like a shark or a tiger, like some dangerous stalking beast, even without moving an inch; ready to pounce.

She climbed into the soft leather seat, appreciating its smell, and noticed he'd replaced the standard belt with a 4 point harness.   He waited until she'd done it up, a pleased expression on his face as she demonstrated her familiarity with the system, then closed the door with the solid noise that signalled good engineering.

As he got in, she asked "How long have you had it?   This is beautifully maintained."

He turned his keys in the ignition, eliciting a threatening snarl from the engine, then smoothly drew out into the traffic before answering.  "I bought it quite cheaply, 8 years ago.   The previous owner had crashed it, and the insurers didn't think it worth repairing.   I put in a V8 and made a few other mods.   Where do you want to go?"

His voice sounded different, more focussed.   She gave him her address but he didn't look at her, keeping his eyes on the road.   He never broke the speed limit but, once she indicated she was ok with acceleration, he started to push the machine.   On every straight, he was either accelerating, or braking ready for the turn, the line perfect, his awareness of the surroundings total.   She kept silent, except for navigating the route, warning him of bends and turns approaching.   The seat seemed to transmit thrum of the engine deep into her body, making her feel at one with the car.

She realised that, with this car, the limit was the driver's skill not the engine, and that he was very skilled indeed.   She'd never felt so alive.

The art lies in deciding where to linger and where to skim lightly; which details are worth describing to the reader, and which can safely be told.

Re: “Show, don’t tell” is stupid advice.

The very first example you used, the one with John and Doe. 

Let me ask you, which one was more pleasant to read? 

Hamfisted emotional spittle with shallow background or an active scene with real emotional content and a visible scene?

KISS is an adorable concept. But it only applies when you're a high enough level that you are able to keep it Short AND Vivid at the same time

From your writing style, no offense, you aren't at said level yet. 

You are a fairly decent writer but only when you rely on presets and descriptions. Otherwise your work is bland and comes out forced. 
The thing moving your stories forward isn't your skill at scene setting nor your descriptions, it's the plot and occasional action that blasts the rest of the chapter out of its water. 

Otherwise I'd dare say that you aren't that complete of a writer in any sense of the word, said word being 'complete', I've read your work, you kiss too much. 

I am but a humble madman, and if I can deduce as much on such a 'well known' saying, yet you cannot I worry for the development of your stories themselves. 

I implore you, sir, do not abuse an acronym if you cannot understand its meaning. 

Re: “Show, don’t tell” is stupid advice.

I really do not know how to say this more directly. You go to a play, take your seat and some guy comes out and says, "in this play this happens then that happens then this occurs then there is an explosion, and that ends the play. Good night and thanks." No actors, no scenery, no acting, nothing. You get up and go get your money back. Do people actually write books like that? Damn bet they do. Uniformly bad tells, by people who have no clue how to write novels. There are, unfortunately, a lot of them.  This is a tell. It provides information, and there is a place for that. A novel is not that place.  A play is not that place. A newspaper is that place. A novel is no place for journalism.  It is where you show a person or people fighting their way through the circumstance a journalist might document. They hurt, they bleed, they argue, they have inner thoughts, anxieties, they tremble, move, smell things, cry, feel the textures around them, react, live the story. You expound where you must, not where ever you possibly can. Why this is such a difficult concept for some to wrap their head around eludes me.

Re: “Show, don’t tell” is stupid advice.

It's less about 'showing' than it is about setting a mood with your narrative.  That's where overarching themes, poetic repetition, and choosing words with a connotation that suits the tone come into play.  

You can 'tell' and inner-monologue all you want as long as it's entertaining, as long as you can write the story in such a style that the reader doesn't want to skip over any words.  It's all about entertainment.  How you entertain doesn't matter.

With the WN format, though, most people are essentially publishing a (hopefully--shit, a sinful adverb!) polished first draft, nothing near what a final cut would look like.  They're discovery writing a 50 plus chapter story, which is a lot of fun but also makes it really hard to use patterns in their storytelling to drive home an important detail.  Instead, it's just easier to state it outright in an evil act of telling!

For my taste, as long as you get the mood of your story across with the narrative voice and that voice is engaging, I'd personally wade through a whole bunch of exposition, adverbs, and wishy-washy inner monologue as long as I believe what the character is feeling.  If not, it's a failing of style, not info-dumping.

Re: “Show, don’t tell” is stupid advice.


Apocryphal Wrote: Kinda amazes me that this thread still gets replies lmao. Especially in regards to commenting about something I expressively admitted in the OP I was kinda bad at relaying because my thoughts weren't all together (and that poor example was literally something I tossed out without thinking, which is why I eventually added a link to explain what I was trying to get at better since I wasn't good at relaying the point home myself).

Even wilder that the issue was addressed by people even after the first person elaborated on it. You'd think someone would see it was already pointed out, and even mentioned by me, the OP, that I likely was getting my idea out wrong, and it'd be left alone by now.

Curious stuff lol

EDIT - Just checked, and turns out that I DIDN'T add that part aside from a last second mention with the link, which blows my mind because I swear that I did lol. Huh, nevermind then, I'll own up to that error.

Because it's in the 'debate' part of the forum people want to add their own thoughts. If it was a question you wanted an answer to and then closed off, you put it in the wrong section and phrased it badly. Now, I'd say, just live with it