Monday, June 21, 2010

Thank you, Faith Hunter!

Like most writers, I have had the "Show Don't Tell" mantra pulsing in my brain for as long as I can remember. Sometimes it intertwines with the lyrics to the song "Show Me"  from the musical My Fair Lady.

I can't even read a published novel without periodically exclaiming (usually silently): "Hey, that's a lot of telling instead of showing! How come the author got away with that? Who published this book?!?!"

Recently I came across an article by fantasy author Faith Hunter called "Show, Don't Tell -- Conveying Emotion." It's one of the most useful articles I have seen so far on the subject, especially given that I'm writing a fantasy novel at the moment!

Faith points out that not only do we need to "show, not tell," we need to avoid using worn-out phrases or crutches to do so. She gives examples of crutches, including:

  • "She chewed her lips."
  • "He shuffled his feet."
  • "He sighed."

Faith then proceeds to give an example of a "Bad Scene with too much telling" and a "Better scene," after which she breaks down that "Better scene," explaining why it's better.

What I'm going to do here is quote a list that Faith provided in answer to one of the comments on the article. I will preface the list with the following quotes from Faith:

"Anything done to excess becomes a crutch."

"A good writer never uses just one device at a time, or one part of a scene for only one purpose. A good writer blends them to create a total that is much more than the sum of the parts."

And now, the list.

"Emotion can be demonstrated with:

  • Physical stage direction
  • Dialogue
  • Things happening in the same scene but which are not actually a part of the main action
  • Inner monologue
  • Narrative
  • Dialogue at cross purposes" *
* Two characters discuss two different things, but neither realizes that.

I encourage you to read the entire article HERE . And while you're at it, check out the whole Magical Words site!


  1. This is a great post Scotti, thank you for sharing this and I am now off to read the link you supplied.


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