This week I’ve been working with Laurie Alberts, the author of the forthcoming book Showing & Telling: Learn How to Show and When to Tell for Powerful and Balanced Writing (Pub date: April 2010). It’s a great book–very thought provoking.
As an editor, and a writer myself, I’ve heard the same advice that most of you have probably received time and time again: “show, don’t tell.” All through my studies in school, through creative writing classes, through my work on my university’s newspaper, through writing group sessions I heard the same mantra. “SHOW, DON’T TELL.” As an editor I’ve often given the same advice. When my friends and I started Fresh Boiled Peanuts, our literary journal, we often wrote that slogan in the margins of stories we thought could use some improvement, most likely passing over stories that showed too much, going through every minute detail of some mundane task. Does the reader really need to hear about the intricate flavors that the protagonist experiences as she eats a tuna sandwich while her plotline hangs in the balance? We probably chalked it up to bad storytelling and sent them a form rejection letter. And, yes, it is bad storytelling… but, it’s fixable. Overdescription adheres to the “show don’t tell” mantra, but some things are better simply stated so that the pacing of the narrative doesn’t suffer. It’s all about finding the right mix of scenes and summary… about finding balance.
And that’s what Laurie Alberts book is about. So keep this one on your radar if you’ve ever questioned the validity of that old standard piece of advice.