Fiction Alive!

If it’s Monday, the category on Before You Write is writing fiction. The topic is Show vs. Tell. 

New fiction writers who understand and employ the fiction technique of show vs. tell get the attention in contests or when they submit their fiction to agents and editors. Simply, it breathes life into your writing and commands “Fiction Alive!”

Essentially, you want to show your reader what is happening in your story through dialogue and action more often than telling them through narration. You don’t need to overdo this. Of course, there’s a time for narration in every novel. Your book, however will become a living, breathing entity if you try to employ showing as often as possible.

Here’s an example or two…

Telling:  Sarah felt sick to her stomach. She knew she couldn’t make it out of the room

Showing: Sarah’s stomach roiled. The faint taste of bile in her mouth set her feet in motion. She tried to push her way toward the exit, but could not squeeze through the crowd.


(It’s always much more interesting to read the dialogue of characters than to be told what they say…)

Telling:  Although they talked quietly in the corner, Mary and Cathy argued over where John would go to college.

Showing: “Oh come on, Mary,” Cathy said. “You can’t tell me that it’s better for John to go to school here, than to the university. You just want to keep your fish hooks into him.”

“That’s not true,” Mary said. “I trust, John.”

“Yeah, just about as far as you can throw him.”

When writing fiction or revising what you’ve written, ask yourself if you’ve shown your readers what is happening in your story. If you haven’t, then revise to make the story more immediate and interesting to your reader. One way to think about it is that you want your readers to live the story as if they are characters in the drama.

About loubelcher

I'm a freelance artist and writer. I enjoy anything whimsical and my art and writing generally concentrate on the lighter side of life.
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2 Responses to Fiction Alive!

  1. cjwunsch says:

    I’m addicted to dialogue. When the throws of fanfiction take me (it’s dirty, I know, and it detracts so completely from working on my OWN stuff, which I think is a large part of why I do it), I always go for the universes with distinctive voices. Joss Whedon is great for that, so is Allan Ball (that’s Fire Fly and True Blood for anyone who’s not as bonkers about TV as I am). Characters from different times and places, with really distinctive voices to work with a great for writing.

    As part of my charater profiles, I sometimes include a list of distinctive phrases. For the piece I’m working on at the moment, I gave each of my characters a standard greeting; what they’d say if they saw you unexpectedly. Everything from a simple ‘Hi’ for the cute, somewhat shy guy, to a ‘yo bitches’ for the class clown. It reminds me that the stock standard way to say it (perfect English and grammar) is also the most boring way to say it, and only your boring (or at least ‘surface boring’) characters should speak that way.

    Awsome advice. I suck at showing Vs telling, which is why I always need at least three edits on all fiction I write. One for typo’s, one for plot inconsistancy, and one for the dreaded show V tell. That one always stings the most!

    • loubelcher says:

      Yep… it’s easy for all of us to forget show vs. tell at times. That’s why I started off with that today. It’s the fastest path to writing that pulls the reader in. I like what you do to ensure that your characters have voices all their own. Individual greetings … great idea. Thanks for you comment…


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