Archive for April 20th, 2010

Apr 20 2010

Show, Don’t Tell

Published by under Writing Articles

I provide advice about how to write novels, comic books and graphic novels. Most of my content applies to fiction-writing in general, but I also provide articles specifically about superhero stories.

1.  Whenever possible, give details instead of general statements. For example, a general statement would be “Tommy LaRouche is a brutal criminal.”  Generally it’s more effective to give the readers the evidence and let them reach their own conclusion.  For example, “Tommy ‘Powerdrill’ LaRouche is wanted for twelve kidnappings, eight counts of torture, five murders, and at least one kidnapping that resulted in murder by torture.  And don’t even think about how he got his nickname.”

2.  Put extra scrutiny into adjectives. Do they help establish a character or the plot?  Do they help the reader create a mental image?  Generally, I think adjectives create more interesting imagery when they describe a detail or action than when they describe something larger, like a character.  For example, saying “Batman is careful” is harder to visualize than an adverb phrase like “Batman carefully checked the door for wires and other signs of booby-traps.”

3.  “Showing” all the time is probably not possible. For one thing, it takes more space.  Calling somebody graceful is shorter than taking a sentence to describe something graceful he does.  However, if the trait is important to the scene, it probably deserves the extra space.

4.  In most cases, I’d recommend finding more specific alternatives for bland modifiers like “good,” “well” and “nice.” What kind of good are we talking about?  For example, if you say somebody is a good writer, it’s not clear whether you’re complimenting her sense of humor or attention to detail or superb wordplay or something else entirely.

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