Greater persons than I had a great idea the other day. As a result, several of us Purgatorians have decided to blog about this most interesting topic today, that being the epic Show vs. Tell debate.
Now, anyone who's even thought about writing has had this driven into their skulls. Show, don't tell! It's enough that even the sound of an "sh" can give a writer a nervous twitch.
And then someone will inevitably come along and say "But wait! Telling isn't always bad!" At which point, the writer will drop their computer out a seventh story window and go into advanced underwater basket weaving.
So, as a boon to all writer-kind, I am here to offer an example of just WHEN telling is ok.
When debating over a show vs. a tell, think, "What exactly is my voice?" No, not you great sopranos out there, whom I shall always envy. The voice of your writing. There may be moments when showing just doesn't fit!
Follow the bouncing ball for an example:
The tavern fell silent when the dark man entered. Gazes dropped to their drinks and conversations stilled as he passed. He took the seat in the farthest corner, and it seemed even the lights dimmed for his passing.
Sounds like a scary dude, right? Now, look at this same thing in a different voice:
It got real quiet when the dude walked into the room, and I could tell that he was a bad mamma jamma.
Not nearly as poetic, but depending on the book you're writing, it might be much more appropriate. The writing techniques you choose will vary greatly depending on your voice. Your epic fantasy about the farmboy saving the world will most likely sound very different than your urban fantasy about the hard-bitten, hard-drinking ex-satyr PI. (Hmm, not a bad idea if I do say so myself)
And, even as I write all this out, I have to insert the standard disclaimer: Your mileage may vary. If we had absolutes in this business, it'd be math.
Here are a few others who had thoughts on the subject, so have fun wandering through other minds today too!