Tag: show don't tell

Narrative Techniques Series: #2 Show don’t tell

Narrative Techniques Series: #2 Show don’t tell

Let’s move on to our narrative techniques series. In this second article of the narrative techniques series, we write about a second important narrative technique that is the Show don’t tell. This is not just advice from writers to writers but an accurate technique fundamental to use in your novel.

How many books have you read in which there is extensive use of descriptions, monologues, and explanations at the expense of dialogues between characters and some action in the plot? This narrative technique, Show don’t tell teaches the writer to use more effort and dialogues to describe and introduce a character because this makes the novel more interesting.

What is the Narrative Technique of Show don’t tell?

What is the main purpose of writing a novel? It is to tell a story that can thrill the reader and in which characters he can identify with. In order to do that you can use this particular technique that shows action instead of explaining it. You can develop your narration by using more actions, words, thoughts, senses and feelings rather than descriptions and summarizations.

Let me make an example. If you have to describe a very unpleasant character, you have two possibilities.

You can do it with a description. You can write that “he is a very unpleasant person, with all his friends and colleagues and that he has a very bad attitude with everyone”. Otherwise, you can use a dialogue between this unpleasant character and a colleague for example. In this way, you just show how unsympathetic he is. Furthermore, you have another advantage: the reader may draw its own conclusions about this character without your explicit description. He may feel not to be in empathy with him, or on the contrary, to really love his straightforward attitude.

One of the first supporters of the narrative technique Show don’t tell was George Campbell. He was a theologian, philosopher, and academic of rhetoric. He believed that to show the feelings was more effective than to describe them.

Rules of this narrative technique

There are some important rules to follow to wisely use this technique. Firstly, you have to write a deep description of what is going on and not only a generic tale. The Show don’t tell technique described in this series works well if you use many details that help the reader to dress the part.

Secondly, develop the scene action by action. If you make the characters interact with each other step by step, it will be easier for the reader to develop the images in his head during the narration.

Lastly, if you simply describe an action and opt for a more conservative technique of writing you can use indirect dialogues. On the contrary, by using this narrative technique object of this article, you have to use direct dialogues. Direct speech has a fundamental role in immersive writing.

A novel based on this narrative technique is more active, made of actions. It contains more active verbs rather than passive ones, and it has a lot of moving images. All that dynamism has a positive and great impact on the reader.

“Actions speak louder than words”

Michel de Montaigne

Create your novel with bibisco by using the Show don’t tell narrative technique

Do you know that bibisco owns very professional and innovative novel writing software? And it can help you with your narration. With this planning software, you can organize the plot of your novel and decide how to use the different narrative techniques of our series. Here below some examples of what you can do.

Narrative Techniques Series: #2 Show don't tell - 
bibisco's architecture of the novel & narrative strands -
bibisco blog | useful resources by your novel writing software
bibisco’s architecture of the novel & narrative strands

Conclusions

Show don’t tell or tell? It depends on your taste and your way of writing. It also depends on the plot of your novel. The only certainty is that a book only with descriptions and no actions can exist.

The reader needs to follow the narration and build a personal image of the characters, the situations, and the story itself. To feel empathy with a character is one of the secrets of a great novel.

In conclusion, this technique can be applied to some parts of the narration you decide to be relevant. The important thing is to give the reader the possibility to draw conclusions by himself without any other conditioning. Here we conclude this second article but don’t forget to read the other ones about the narrative techniques series!