After posting this blog yesterday I had a discussion with a fellow writer who, in the nicest possible way, reminded me that the distinction between ‘show’ and ‘tell’ is not simply confined to narrative vs dialogue, but also in how we, as writers, choose to inform the reader. So you could say either ‘Joe looked nervous,’ or you could say, ‘Joe was chewing his fingernails, eyes darting from side to side.’ Not poetry I know, just a couple of different ways to get the message across. And that’s where I’m going to leave it. I’m certainly no expert on all this – as should be apparent from this blog, I’m learning all the time, and ‘show, don’t tell,’ is one of the toughest concepts to get my head around. That’s why I compared it to a net of knots, because it’s so easy to get caught up in it. There are times while I’m writing when the words are just tumbling out of me and I have to get them down, then I can go back later and sort out the bits that don’t quite read right. At the time when I’m doing it I don’t have the space to consider show vs tell, I just have to write the story as it comes to me. I think if I stopped to consider style I might lose the thread.
There are some excellent books out there by people who do know what they’re talking about when it comes to writing fiction: On Writing by Stephen King is one I found particularly helpful, while another friend recommends Writing Fiction by Janet Burroway (I’ve not read it yet but I plan to). If there are any you’ve read that have helped you, please do add them in the comments.
So there you go – another step on this journey of learning. And this, I think, is also part of being a writer – the willingness to learn from what you’re doing, to put mistakes and crappy stories and bad reviews and rejection behind you and keep moving forward, keep that belief in the story.