If you’re a writer, you’ve been told you’re telling, not showing so often you want to rip the keyboard off your laptop and embed it in someone’s skull. But, there’s a new “show, don’t tell” that’s being propagated. And, this time, people are pushing for more TELL. Here, let me explain…
Tell: “She was sad.”
Show: “Tears fell down her cheeks as she sobbed uncontrollably.”
Not perfect, but you get the drift of the difference. In finer moments, this advice of “Show, don’t Tell,” was a great starting point. Too many amateur writers leaned on telling when they should have been showing and immersing the reader into the story.
But recently, there’s been a new push…TO TELL.
Writers, and lazy readers, want emotive words and active verbs stuffed into stories so hard it’s like word death camps. “To Be” verbs are snuffed out, subtlety is drawn and quartered, and the reader is dumber for it, as is the writing.
Writing, “The sun crashed through the window and scorched his eyeballs as he drowsily woke to a throbbing headache” is not better or more emotive. It’s lazy. It TELLS the reader what to feel. It TELLS the reader what the character is feeling. There is no subtle playing with language. There’s no beautiful toying with words to inch your way into the readers brain subconsciously. At the end of the story, you’re tired. Not because the story sits with you (like it should), but because you just read an action packed comic book movie. It’s the literary equivalent of a WWE wrestling match. Everything is handed to you. Everything is told to you. And all you got from that experience is blood, sweat, and a lighter billfold.