Stand-alones: Tips and Advice

Showing Versus Telling

Happy Sunday!  So yesterday evening I was trying to decide what I should post about today…and I finally chose a topic.

Info-dumping! (Click here to learn what that is.)

But info-dumping is just a small part of it.  To be more specific, I’m going to explain how to show, instead of tell.  And no, this is not a reference to your second grade class where you each brought something for Show and Tell.  This is a tad different.  Don’t worry, I’ll explain.

I’m sure you’ve heard the term “show, don’t tell” if you’re in any way involved in the writing industry.  (I hear it’s quite a popular thing to say when attempting to give writing advice.)  But if you haven’t, I’ll clear it up for you.

The term “show, don’t tell” basically means to show/input information, emotion, and opinions into the story without saying it outright.  In case that didn’t make sense to you, here’s a definition I found online:

Show, don’t tell is a technique often employed in various kinds of texts to enable the reader to experience the story through action, words, thoughts, senses, and feelings rather than through the author’s exposition, summarization, and description.

via: Wikipedia

Hopefully that’s cleared up any questions you had on what “showing but not telling” actually is.  I’m sure that by now you actually have a bigger question: How does one “show, not tell?

I get it, I get it.  The idea of “showing not telling” can be a bit overwhelming to think about.  I personally find it extremely difficult to find ways to input somewhat hidden information into scenes – especially if I’ve already written the scene in question and need to fix it.  But I’ll do my best to help you.

Before we get started on that, however, I have two tips for you on how to initially discover that you’re doing too much info-dumping.

1. beta readers or critique partners!

This is my hugest, most recommended tip, which is why I underlined it, put it as number one on my list, and gave it a link for you to check out.  I cannot stress how important beta readers and critique partners are for pointing out things like too much fact dumping.

And they don’t just help with pointing out the things you need to fix.  They’re also great at showing you where you can move the information to, and what you can improve.  So if you’re having trouble deciding where you should input and spread the facts that you have overloaded in one scene, then you should really consider enlisting a beta reader or critique partner.  Seriously.  Do it.

2. Reread your manuscript.

This one’s probably pretty obvious.  Just reread your manuscript.  If something feels unnatural, overly boring, or forced, it should be something you look into.  If you notice that there’s something you could be showing through a character’s actions or dialogue, then that’s another red flag.

Now I have a few tips for you on how to actually fix this info-dumping issue.  The tips will help you rearrange, delete, or add information to scenes where it is necessary or unnecessary.

1. Examine your scenes.

Usually when I’m having trouble figuring out where to input my info-dumps, I go back over my scenes and try to find one that’s lacking something.  If you go through your manuscript and find scenes that have little to no purpose, then these should be places you can consider putting implied, vague versions of your info-dumps.  This way, in a sense, you’re inputting factual dumps into places that are bare-boned and fact-less.

2. Consider what information is actually necessary.

Sometimes, in places that you’ve already identified as obvious info-dumps, you’ll find a lot of information that is irrelevant to the story, whether it’s something about a family member of a character in your story, or a town, or whatever.  Before you set about moving your info-dumps elsewhere, you should contemplate whether or not the said information is really necessary to your story.  Make sure to trim away the unnecessary bits!  Even – especially – if your main goal is to beef up your story.

Many a time, I’ve read excerpts of writing where the writer includes all this irrelevant, insignificant information that leaves the reader thinking, “…ok….”  Let me tell you right now – if your story is short and sweet, then that’s ok.  Tolerate it.  But PLEASE don’t try to make it lengthy by adding unimportant tidbits.  It won’t help you in the long run.

3. Think of ways to show your intentions through a character.

Characters are a very helpful way to keep your info-dumping to a minimum.  They allow you to show so much.  For example, if your character is snobby and impertinent, the best way to display this is not by simply stating, “[Character name] was snobby and impertinent.”  The best way of showing this is through her actions or words.  Make the character say something snobby and impertinent to the protagonist; make her through a tantrum when not given something she wants.  Make her personality obvious without actually stating it.

That’s all for today!  Thank you so much for reading.  I hope you found this helpful if you were confused on how to show, not tell.  If you did, please follow my blog – it means a lot – and give this post a like.  I post writerly and bookish things every week!

If you have a question, suggestion, or comment, please don’t hesitate to drop it below or contact me, and I will most definitely get back to you.

See you next Sunday! ❤


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