The difference lies in the verb.
It was cold. = Telling
Amy shivered in the cold. = Showing.
An active verb connotates a showing sentence. But this isn't always true. I could have said, "Amy thought it was cold," and that does employ an active verb--but the beef of that sentence lies in the passive verb, not the active one.
To figure out what to show, ask: How do you know this?
It was cold. = A simple fact. Ask: how do you know it's cold?
Answer = Amy shivers.
Now, obviously, that's the ultimate in simplicity. You can't just stop there.
The difference between boring showing and good showing is in the emotion.
Amy shivered in the cold. = Boring showing.Notice how they get longer? A picture's worth a thousand words--so to show that picture, it might take all thousand words.
Amy shivered: the cold seemed to reach all the way through her skin and into her heart. = Good showing.
Does this mean everything you write should be "showing"? NO. Lemme say that again: NO. Sometimes it's just cold. Say it and move on. But if this is a point where you can and should show character development or enhance the story, show it.
You are amazing, you know that? This is one of the simplest, clearest, best definitions of show vs tell I have every come across. Thank you for sharing!
Very cool way to break it down, Beth!
That is a great way of explaining show versus tell! Thank you - it gives me something to keep in mind.
Wonderfully put! It's so funny, the timing of your blog post. Do you remember my post on showing, not telling a couple months ago? Last week, I turned it into more of an article, and started the process of submitting. I love the way you explained the difference!
So simple and yet easy to miss. Thanks for the post.
Showing is important but you can't "show" the entire book.
You are an excellent teacher and writer!! :)
very well put, Beth!
Yep, action is definitely the key to showing. It's so simple, and yet for some reason it takes new writers awhile for that to sink in. Personally, I think it's because so few people actually define it. Glad there's another definitive definition out there now. :)
I like your example. I think you could take that final sentence further:
Amy shivered. The cold seeped through her skin, right into her heart.
This is a combination of showing and active prose, but the two are so intertwined that I think they're near impossible to separate. :)
YAY teach! It's no wonder you're such a GREAT teacher. I really do get it now. And I'm sure I'll find something else to BUG you about. Hehehe Thanks :)
Great job Beth! Bravo! I always knew it was in the verbs and action words, but you put it so succinctly. Kudos!
Really good lesson here! I think we often forget the simple things in writing.
Great post, Beth. Must be the teacher in you!
Excellente!! ;-) Make sure you file this away where we can find it easily! LOL
Those are some excellent examples, Beth. Thanks!
True, and a good example. However, more words is not necessarily better. I think it really comes down to the quality of the words you choose, like you mentioned above. NIce post though!
This has been the single most obstructive concept for me to get over in my writing. Thank you so much for the putting it so clearly!I'm sure you have helped dozens!
Anon--I'm so glad you liked it! :)
omg its soo good
So I'm three years late, but let me say this: In this short, sweet post, you've helped me understand the concept of showing versus telling.
To think, I could've referred to this post as opposed to going through the too-intricate ones littering the blogosphere.
Excellent post - and still being talked about on twitter! Many thanks.
Wow, I've really been struggling with show vs. tell, and my writing book just makes me confused, but YOU put it in a such a simple, understandable way that I think I can do it now. Thank you, you're the BEST!
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