Thursday, June 07, 2007

Don't Show Everything

I not only know the old adage, Show Don't Tell, I advocate it. On the other hand, some things are best summarized or narrated -- or omitted all together. Unless it's essential to the plot or a foreshadowing of a later event, do I really need to be told every detail of how Michael got from his red, cat-clawed, plastic-covered couch to his leather upholstered, white Miata?

As you edit your novel or story, cut the non-essential.

Sometimes as you're writing, you come across things that just have to be explained or told to the reader. And so you do. Now go back and re-read what you wrote as if you were in a bookstore, slid your book off the shelf and opened it to this page. Were you able to get through the exposition without falling to the floor in a dead sleep? Readers don't like to be lectured to. They want to be in the book, living it with the characters. Not every explanation nor every back story can be changed into a scene, but most of them can be, and a great deal of the rest can be interspersed through the book. Scenes in a book are immediate -- like scenes in a movie, only better. Better because in a book you get both more and less. You get more since you're sometimes allowed into a character's head. You also get less because not everything is laid out on the screen -- you have to use your imagination.

Speaking of letting your readers use their imagination, you don't really need to describe your characters or even the major ones down to the last detail. As long as I have the basics, I'd rather visualize the rest.


  1. Thanks for the reminder, Helen! Well said. Except...let me just say this one more thing........:-)


  2. Thanks for the laugh Sylvia!


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