Monday, September 22, 2014

The Difference between SHOWING & TELLING

"Don't say 'the old lady screamed'.
Bring her on and let her scream!"
Mark Twain

From an exercise...
Angel bent over, groaning in pain. "Damn Buffy, why in the Hell did you do that?"

The next thing she knew, he had his hands around her ankles and she was dangling over the edge of the railing.
Oopsie ~ we’re TELLING! I can see why you did it - you would have had to have added a few paragraphs just to describe what happened, but Action is Showing, not Telling. MH
-----Original Message-----
I see that advice a lot, and the odd time I understand it, but not often enough, or how it’s actually done. How do you SHOW that scene above, not tell it? I get the two confused – to my addled brain sometimes showing seems to be telling…and vice versa. Not sure if you understand that, but you seem to get most of what I’ve thrown at you, so I leave that in your capable hands. Could you give us an idea of how it could look if shown, not told?

-- Thanks!!! Sue* ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The reason this was TELLING was the fact that she didn’t SHOW us step by step, how Buffy got into that position, she simply Told us that it had happened.

When a writer is pressed for word-count and time, Telling happens. TELLING is perfectly okay in a repeated action, but its good manners to detail the action at least once so the reader has a nice clear picture in their mind of what that happening looks like.

SHOWING is about Mind Pictures...

When you write a story, you are making a MOVIE for the reader. Telling is when you plant a cue – rather than illustrating a scene.
Angel bent over, groaning in pain. "Damn Buffy, why in the Hell did you do that?"

The next thing she knew, (This is a cue!) he had his hands around her ankles and she was dangling over the edge of the railing.
You have to GUESS how Angel went from being bent over and groaning in pain to dangling Buffy over the railing.

If you have to GUESS
how a Character did something
– you’ve been TOLD, not Shown.

Many writers don’t realize that they are writing CUES instead of Pictures, because that's what they see in a lot published mainstream books: CUES. "Monkey See - Monkey Do".

"Well if they can do it - why is it Wrong?"

A LOT of published authors get away with TELLING through Cues, because they are making up for it in some other way: Drama, Dialogue, Atmosphere, Science, Magic... Unfortunately a lot of new authors miss this.

Case in point: Most Romances TELL – a Lot. They don't bother with detailed action of any kind. WHY? - Because Romances are not being read for their ACTION, they’re being read for their EMOTION, their Drama. Romances, as a rule, make up for their lack of Action with detailed emotional Drama– and the Emotional Drama in a Romance is Very detailed.

On the flipside: Readers of Vampire Horror or Vampire Erotica won't touch a mainsteam Vampire Romance with a ten-foot pole - because there's too much Drama and no real Action in it.

The Difference between

Romance and Erotic Romance

Erotic Romance is All SHOW and No TELL. You won't see pages and pages, and pages, of dramatic narrative in an Erotic Romance, because the Erotic Romance Reader won't put up with it.

ACTION rules Erotic Romance – NOT Drama.

Erotic Romances are being read for their Sexual ACTION more than anything else. The Emotions of love and angst have to be there, or it’s not a Romance – but the drama is not nearly as detailed as in a common ordinary Romance, because Drama bogs down the Action.

This is why most Erotic Romances are also Adventure stories! Sexual Action needs other types of Action to balance out, or the Reader skips everything in between "to get to the good parts."

A lot of successful mainstream Romance authors are floundering when they try to write Erotic Romance because adding hotter sex scenes to an ordinary Romance doesn't satisfy the Erotic Romance Reader who is accustomed to Detailed action-heavy sex scenes PLUS other action sequences to balance the story out.

In Erotic Romance the real difference between Showing and Telling - is SALES or NO SALES.

If the above scene had been SHOWN instead of Told, it might have looked something like this:
Angel bent over, groaning in pain. "Damn Buffy, why in the Hell did you do that?"

Buffy grinned and spoke in her sweetest voice. “Maybe because you deserved it?”

Angel looked up with his eyes narrowed. “I deserved it?” His lip curled. “Is that so?” His entire body tensed, straining the seams of his jacket.

She took a half-step back. Uh oh…
Angel exploded from his crouch. In a rush of hard hot muscle, he barreled into her and bear-hugged her in an iron grip around the waist as though she’d been a football player on the opposing team. At full speed, he shoved her backwards toward the wall.

Buffy’s heels skidded unpleasantly on the stone flags until the back of her knees hit the wall. She tipped backwards. “Oh shit!” She grabbed onto his coat’s lapels and stared into his face from less than a kiss away.

Angel grinned, showing the curving length of his long fangs. “I deserved it huh?” He shoved.

Buffy tipped back into open space, and squealed in surprised. She knew the fall wouldn’t kill her. She’d survived far worse, but God, it was embarrassing.

With faster than human reflexes, Angel caught her around the ankles holding her dangling over the edge of the railing with her skirt slipping down toward her waist.

Buffy groaned. She just knew his eyes were on her pink cotton panties. She just knew it.


Morgan Hawke
*Posted with Permission

Reposted from older blog entry 'cuz blogspot crapped out on me.