Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Some Light Shed On A Writing Technique

A facebook writers group member shared an article today that appeared on a blog back in 2013. The title intrigued me so I took a look at it and was blown away by the premise the blogger, who runs a Canadian editorial service, gave us. The article title is "Why Show, Don't Tell Is the Big Myth of Fiction Writing." My first reaction was Whoa! This goes against everything we hear at writers' conferences, in books on the craft of writing and in critique groups.

The title pulls the reader in, but it's the article itself that is important. Arlene Prunkl, the author, isn't suggesting that 'showing' is not important and that 'telling' is the preferred method of writing a story. Not at all. She gives many examples that illustrate how showing adds drama and interest and how telling can sometimes, to quote her, be "flat and dull."

What I derived from this lengthy, but worthwhile article, is that the fiction writer can use both techniques but balance is the key. Too much of either telling or showing doesn't work. The trick for writers is to learn how to find that balance and use it. The article uses fiction as the basis for the article but I think it works for creative nonfiction, as well, since that genre uses fiction techniques while giving the reader a true story.

How many times have you read that you must show rather than tell your story? So many that you begin to feel that telling a story is akin to breaking a federal law! Don't worry--you aren't breaking any laws if you choose to tell a story from beginning to end. I plead guilty to being among those who have urged you to use more showing than telling. I'm a bit miffed with myself that I didn't come up with the idea that the two can worktogether if you balance the amount. Usually, I am a person who chooses the middle ground on most things, so I'm wondering why I leaned so far to the show the story side. I still think that writing a story with a good share of showing is going to create a more interesting read.

I think I will backtrack a bit, however, and grant that using telling as a technique in a story is alright, as long as it isn't overused.

It would be well worth your time to click on this link and read the full article. I flet like it was today's Aha! moment for me. Maybe it could be for you, too.


  1. I think it would greatly benefit the audience, Nancy, if you were to put up an example of both "showing and telling" of the same story. In this way, readers would clearly be able to see both and their differences. Just a thought.

    1. There are several examples shown in the article that I refer in this post. Click on the link, that says 'this link' to read it. Since it was so well done within the article. I didn't feel I needed to repeat. Thanks for your comment.