Common Writing Mistake: Show, Don't Tell

They say that more than half of our communication comes from non-verbal cues.  Naturally, this has led to a hundred studies trying to figure out exactly how much communication is verbal.  But you get the idea.  Suffice to say that if you were to watch a movie and put the sound on mute you could still generally tell what sorts of emotions the characters are experiencing.

Unfortunately, this is something that tends to get easily lost during the writing process.  Writing is about words... the verbal part of communication, right?

Wrong.

To me, the most memorable books are the ones that create a world for you to become lost in.  You love the characters because they seem real even if the setting is in an alternate universe.  In order for that setting to become real the writer must give the reader non-verbal details to latch on to.

For example, telling the reader that a character is angry doesn't create much of an impact.  How angry is angry?  Forcing the character to stand by and watch his farm burn to the ground shows the injustice.  The writer doesn't even have to say that the character is angry if the setting is done correctly.  The farm was the character's home.  Anyone would be angry if their home was burned to the ground for no reason.

Show the reader, don't tell the reader.

I believe that new writers tell details because it's easier than showing.  Saying that the Lord of Darkness is evil is much easier than writing out a scene describing his ruthless distribution of justice.  But the end result for the reader will be completely different.  Telling me what emotions I am supposed to feel creates detachment from the story.  Remember that a reader does not have to care about your characters just because you, the writer, care.  Readers must be made to care, which means that empathy must be created.



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Author interview: Chuck Heintzelman

Dean Wesley Smith on Making a Living With Short Stories

Review of "State of Grace," short story by Tara Fox Hall