Ah Ha Moment – Show versus Tell

Show don’t tell.
That advice is in every book, every lengthy article, every DIY writer’s post. But what the heck does it mean?

I wrote almost 2 entire novels before I fully understood the concept. My Ah-Ha moment came when my characters turned the corner, literally. They were walking down a city street with busking musicians, food vendors, lights, chaos, smells, and then they turned down a side street lined with office buildings.
In the first version I stated it. Something like, “… turned the corner onto a street obviously meant for businesses.” It looked lame. It felt lame. I stared at it, glared at it, crumpled it up and threw it across the room. Then I got up, rescued it from the cat’s clutches, smoothed it out and tried again.

The frustrating part was I could see it so clearly. A quieter street lined with perfectly manicured shrubs and trees, evenly spaced as if marching in lock step. And that’s when the difference between show and tell dawned on me.

What was your Ah-Ha moment in writing? What was it related to, setting, plot, character, dialog? Did it come after you’d written a lot or a little?

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3 thoughts on “Ah Ha Moment – Show versus Tell

  1. mreedmccall

    It’s a difficult balance between…sometimes you have to tell, though showing is always better. I think if you’ve got the “film” going in your head that’s half the battle. It’s how I write, too – I try to describe that movie in my head through the character who is living it (the POV character for that scene). Great post!

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    1. ryliedal Post author

      Yes! Yes! The “film” as you put it. But, darn it is so hard to describe. Sometimes I feel like I want to yank out my brain and hand it to someone and say, “See! I bungled it on paper but it’s really cool in here.”
      Thank you again for your comments. The time you take to read and respond is deeply appreciated.

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  2. naptimethoughts

    I can’t remember… My attention to detail comes and goes sometimes, and you can tell when it goes because my readers tell me. They say things like “Nice post” or “haha”. Instead of “I nearly peed my pants”. It’s the urination I’m looking for, so the attention to detail must be alive and well.

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