Time for show and tell


I’ve a problem with a piece of creative writing advice. Irrational I know but every time I hear it I grind my teeth in frustration. The piece of advice is “Show don’t tell”, I know what is meant by this, Chekhov explains it perfectly in the quote above, but the phrase aargh!

I refuse to use it until all the children in the world ask before bed to be shown a story. Until then storytelling wins every time for me.

© 2015 | Frank Regan, All rights reserved.



5 thoughts on “Time for show and tell

  1. I agree, Frank! Imagine if Picasso was an author? None of us would understand a word!

    I remember going to a session at the Perth Writers’ Festival in Western Australia, where four “acclaimed” authors of literary fiction read passages from their latest books. I consider my vocabularly pretty broad and have the ability to interpret most metaphors, but I truly didn’t understand more than 10% that evening 🙂

    Figurative language should be used judiciously. IMHO, “showing” has more impact this way anyway…


    • Definitely Lorraine it is one of those phrases and techniques that gets treated as the be all and end all rather than a means of conveying.
      I’ve just finished reading a book in which the author has not physically described a single character beyond saying things like “she was a woman past childbearing age” everything else being left to my mind as a reader.


  2. Interesting point. I’ve come across this Chekov quote before, and at the time it impressed me. Now that I think about it, I’m annoyed, because actually the glint of light on broken glass is too damned vague. And that of course is the problem. A long time ago a friend gave me a critique and she said I should show more and tell less. I did know what she meant, but it still ties me in knots when I write, wondering if I am making enough sense.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think all of these techniques are fine as long as you don’t overdo them. I think if you have nothing but telling it can become a little like a shopping list – I know I am guilty of that at times in my flash fiction.
      But dialogue is showing and writing “…then John shrugged…” is showing – I (and this is just my opinion) think that a lot of people when they are learning to write latch onto to this phrase “show don’t tell” and sacrifice other elements of their writing to Showing.
      That’s me off my soapbox now.

      Thinking back to a couple of your posts I remember the one you wrote just after the Paris terrorist attacks about your friends caught up in it and a post you wrote about going for a walk up a hill, think it was just after Xmas, and you hadn’t brushed your hair so you didn’t want to be seen by anybody. Both of those have stuck in my mind because they did make sense and were written in a way to allow my mind to imagine the scene.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s