Thursday, January 28, 2010

Telling With A Purpose

One of the many things I'm working on when while writing the latest, greatest revision of Product of an Illusion, is to make sure that I show and don't tell. It's a pretty easy concept to understand. But a harder concept to apply to one's writing, especially when trying to create a fictious world in which you feel you have to educate your reader on the constraints of the reality you have created. And no matter how much you try to show the reader, there are in fact some situations where you have to resort to telling. But, what situations justify telling?

Agent Kristen Nelson stated the following in a recent post:

"Only tell when it’s imperative to do so in order to move the story forward."

I read this statement somewhere around five in the morning, and it was a beacon of clarifying light. This statement alone helped me realize what telling needed to be cut out and what telling needed to remain in my manuscript. Something clicked in my brain. To many of you this may seem like common sense. But there was something about the way Kristen explained it in this one lone statment, that made it all fall into place for me.


  1. So true, but so much easier said than done! Argh! :-)

  2. I used to think that if I didn't "tell" the reader what was going on, they wouldn't understand. Boy, was I wrong! What's the expression, Less is more? I think once I became more of a confident writer I realized my dialog and my characters actions could stand on their own and easily "show" what was happening, without silly me expounding on it.

    It was a light bulb moment for me too!

    Great post, girlie!

    xoxo -- Hilary

  3. At a certain point, showing's actually easier than telling b/c you can 'show' things all the time, but there are only certain times when you're allowed to or should 'tell.'

  4. I do an entire round of revisions looking only for too much telling! Good post :)

  5. I think you make a good point about explaining the constraints of the reality you have a created. It's fine to tantalise the reader with lots of show, show, show, but at some point that new reality needs to be set down in black and white, for exactly the reason Kristen Nelson gives.

  6. I'm still waiting for the light to shine completely. It flickers- which drives me insane!

    I still have plenty of work cut out for me.

  7. Good post - I had to go check out Kristen's blog to read her example and Soulless looks awesome. Great advice .