by C.L. Phillips
When I first started writing one of the most difficult concepts to internalize was the difference between telling and showing. I have a large gallon jar sitting in my office filled to the brim with the nickels I tossed into the jar each time someone said, "Show me. Don't tell me."
If you know anyone struggling with this concept, I have a simple solution. Rent two movies, the Golden Compass and The Last Airbender. Or if you prefer the Chronicles of Narnia and The Last Airbender. All three movies are from the fantasy genre which makes it a little easier for a mystery or romantic mystery writer to suspend disbelief and becoming engrossed in the story.
Watch either the Golden Compass or Chronicles of Narnia first. Then watch The Last Airbender.
After doing this, the difference between telling and showing will become crystal clear in your mind. The Last Airbender is the telling movie, while the Golden Compass and the Chronicles of Narnia not only show the story, they pull you into the action. You'll find yourself emotionally involved with the main characters in a way that you never considered with The Last Airbender.
The Last Airbender uses flashbacks and voice-overs to provide clues to the action that take the movie-goer out of the story. Contrast with the Golden Compass or the Chronicles of Narnia, where the action is immediate, fast-paced and propelling the characters to greater and deeper conflict as the story progresses. Without any commentary or play-by-play.
When did you first internalize this difference? What has it meant to your writing? When you need to provide an example of the difference between telling and showing, how do you explain it?