16.33: Tell, Don’t Show
Your Hosts: DongWon Song, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler
Few pieces of writing advice get repeated as much as that old saw “show, don’t tell.” We’re here to show tell you that it’s not only not universally applicable, much of the time it’s wrong¹. Tell, don’t show, especially in the early pages of the book when so very, very much information needs to be delivered² quickly.
Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson
¹ Fun fact: this advice comes to us from silent film, when it made great artistic sense to put things on screen rather than on title cards.
² If you need new terminology, Dan uses “demonstration vs. description.”
Homework: Rewrite your whole first scene as narration. See what parts work better and what doesn’t work. Keep the better bits, and work them into the next draft.
Thing of the week: Jade City, by Fonda Lee.
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