Show not Tell

I have grappled a long few months with the idea of ‘showing’ rather than ‘telling’ a story. As a new writer I simply had a story to tell and so 18 months ago  I set about telling it. However, over the past 6 months I have come across the same recurring theme on many author blogs: Show your story; don’t tell it.

I kind of understood what this meant, but actually doing it  proved much harder. It has meant re-writing and re-writing  and re writing stuff which I thought was genuinely good at the time but have realised since I was, and probably still am in parts, guilty of telling not showing my readers the story.

As a teacher I wouldn’t dream of only telling my pupils something. I show them – often in numerous different  ways – how to do something, and it occurred to me that story writing is not very different to this. A writer has many different tricks for being able to show the story they are telling. It may be through action or dialogue or a nuance of how a character says something or acts.  For heavens sake I teach this stuff to kids in writing lessons so why was I finding it so difficult to do in my own writing?

Well firstly because I just wanted to get the story down on paper. Little did I realise in January, when I finished ‘telling’ the story, (in my mind  it was finished then and would just need cleaning up ) that I would spend another 6 months or so cutting large chunks out and re writing even larger chunks so the story could actually come to life.

Secondly, once you have spent 18 months of your life constructing an entire fantasy world along with characters, plot lines, checking for inconsistencies, not to mention actually physically writing and rewriting 70,000 odd words, it takes some courage to say to yourself: “This is not good enough.” But I am glad I did tell myself that what I had written was not good enough. Thanks to the wonders of online communities such as Twitter and more experienced author’s blogs, I discovered what I had actually written then was a skeleton and I hang my head in shame to think I gave that skeleton to quite a few people to read!

But no matter. I have now got to a point where I know the parts of my story which I have ‘told’, rather than ‘shown’. I am about to completely re write Chapter 8, partly because I have a more exciting creative idea for it and partly because I know quite a lot of it is told as oppose to shown.

Luckily, as the chapters go on, I think I got better at the showing  rather than the telling, so hopefully there will be less work to do beyond chapter 8. But who knows? I’m learning all the time.

The journey continues…

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