Show Don’t Tell

Show don’t tell.

There’s online debate at the moment about this advice traditionally given to writers. A lot of people are saying it’s over rated, that there are many times when trying to show not tell ends up getting in the way of the story. Sometimes a quick information dump is best.

They’re right. But they’re missing the point.

As Sol Stein said, story telling is all about communicating emotion. And as every romance reader and writer (and I used to be one of them) knows, it’s not enough to tell someone you love them, you have to show them.

How can a writer convince the reader that two people are in love?

It’s not enough to say that someone is attractive. In a traditional romance the man is nearly always tall and dark and handsome. Does this make him desirable? Maybe, if that’s your type, but it’s not enough. Maybe he’s good with his hands, maybe he’s thoughtful and compassionate. Better, but this is still really just telling.

How do you show that two people are attracted to each other? They blink, they blush, they get tongue tied, they laugh too long at each other’s jokes, they touch each other on the arm… They do things for each other.

Romance is a big emotion, it drives a plot. In some ways it’s an easier thing to write. How do you show that two people simply like each other, that they get along?

Learning how to do this is part of the craft writing, it comes with practice. It’s great to see it done well. Here’s a good example.

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