Show, don’t tell

I haven’t been writing. I’ve been training my dog. It’s a peculiarity of me that I can have just one obsession at a time. Fortunately or unfortunately, those obsessions run in phases. So I’ll focus on my novel for a while, then toss it to the wind and train my dog for a while, and then forget them both and count calories and obsess about the gym for a while. On the plus side, though a phase may be short-lived at the time, I rarely have time to get bored with it, so it’s always new and exciting to me, and even after I drop it, it’s almost guaranteed to come around again sometime. On the negative side, it makes progress in any one area quite slow. In fact, it’s a wonder I ever get anything done at all. And yet, I have two completed screenplays, a published non-fiction book, and a dog who is actually pretty well trained.

My reading habits tend to mirror my current obsession, but before I switched to scintillating texts on agility training, I managed to read a couple of books on fiction writing. One of those books was Self Editing for Fiction Writers. Really, really excellent book! I think I was expecting more of a grammar focus, but instead it focuses on larger elements like dialog, voice, and point of view. The lesson I got the most from in this initial pass was “Show, Don’t Tell.”

“Show, Don’t Tell” is common advice to fiction writers. I even know what it means. But this book was better at explaining and illustrating the concept than anything I’ve read before, and it just clicked for me. I went back and read some of my short stories, and there’s a heck of a lot of telling there.

Kinda bummed me out.

But it really opened my eyes to the issue, and I think my writing will be better for it now. And, really, I do want to write this story.

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