Show VS Tell: Do It Or Don’t

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You can go on about 100 different websites to find out the difference between the two, and many will vary in opinion. However, this IS NOT one of those posts. You’ll find out that what I’m talking about is something that many indie authors will straight up argue over! But, the fact is, it’s an opinion. Take what resonates. Do what you want.

First off, I have to say one thing: when taking another writers advice, be wary. Not all of whom want you to succeed, for many reasons. I, on the other hand, envision a future where everyone gets to do what they love and STILL EARN A LIVING. I know, far fetched. However, regardless of what people say, it should still be a viable dream.

Anyways, here we go.

SHOW WHAT’S IMPORTANT, TELL WHAT IS NOT.

DA Rasmussen

What I mean by that is basically what I said. Show what is important. How do you know what is important? That’s up to you and your story.

It has to set the tone, make a difference, and shed light on the inner workings of your MC’s life/past/personality/mind. If it does none of those of things, and you’re at a scene that needs to pick up its pace: TELL IT LIKE IT IS. No need to keep “showing” if it does nothing for your story except slow it down. Most books get DNF’d because of that kind of pacing.

Another thing to consider, is that not everything needs to be “important” in your story. Never add scenes for the sake of fluff, but don’t feel bad if some scenes don’t affect the plot any. Just make sure it fits in the story, and propels the tone/insights. If (and when) a book gets picked up for a movie offer, the screenwriters will nix whatever they find “unimportant”.

I’ll use Twilight as an example. I don’t remember most of the scenes from the books. Just the main ones. But the movies hit all the necessary plot points the way I remembered it. The ones I did remember were “shown”. Except there was a scene in New Moon that was all “telling” about how Bella put up Missing Person signs looking for Jacob. They didn’t add that in the movie. I didn’t even remember that scene from the book until a TikToker pointed it out one day and I was like, “oh, yeah!”

Note: whatever is “told” in the story most likely won’t even be remembered. Hence, SHOW WHAT’S IMPORTANT TELL WHAT IS NOT.

Honestly, the only writers I see that get the whole “show don’t tell” whack against the head are INDIE AUTHORS. Yet you can go to the library or bookstore, and pick up ANY trad published author and see for yourself that most of their books are telling more than showing. Especially thrillers. Many manuscripts get rejected for not having that story’s balance of both.

So why are indie authors held to higher standard that often gets rejected?

It’s the writers community way of gatekeeping without gatekeeping. There, I said it! That’s truly all it boils down to. I’ve read 400 books this year and not a single one of them had strictly showing over telling. There was either all telling or a balance of the two.

Key takeaway here: write what you want, fuck the “rules”, get your edits in, and BE CONFIDENT!!!

Don’t give up. Just because another fellow indie author gets on your case about you “telling” too much, keep in mind they’re doing it for one (or both) of these 2 reasons:

1. They’re salty about their own lack of sales and need an outlet. Or,

2. They like what you wrote, and how, and can’t fathom your success for not following the “rules” they were made to believe.

You should only follow your own rules. Don’t let others opinion change who you are as a writer. Just write! And the reason I say to do it with confidence, is because if you allow yourself to be self conscious in your writing, you’ll forever be chasing whatever rule is currently trending and then you’ll be even more crushed if it doesn’t succeed. Forever telling yourself, “But I did everything right! I did everything they told me to! Why was it still not enough?”

You don’t want that path, trust me. Do what you want because, then, if you still fail, at least you can say: “I gave my all, I am enough, I was true to myself, and at least I tried.” Because that’s more than anyone can truly say.

Be authentic. Be confident. Be you.



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