‘Show, don’t tell’

Here’s a well-known piece of writing advice:

‘Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.’ – Anton Chekhov

Chekhov is right, of course, and this is something that good writers are constantly trying to do.  The advice itself seems simple enough to understand but I discovered recently in my Writers’ Group that some people don’t quite ‘get it’.  One of our members had submitted a poem that was so obscure I couldn’t really figure out what it was about i.e. what was happening to whom and why (and why I should care).

When I put this to her, she explained that she was “Showing, not telling.”

Well, yes, but without sufficient context even the glint of light on broken glass becomes fairly pointless!

So that’s something I’m now trying to watch out for (which is the benefit of Writers’ Groups): not to do so much ‘showing’ that the context and meaning of the story gets left behind in my head.

Though I must admit, too much ‘showing’ in my writing is usually not the biggest problem!

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