Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Show Don't Tell in Fiction

Many of us grew up listening to stories which began, for example: 'Once upon a time there was a king and queen had no children, until, after they thought they would never have a child, they were delighted when the queen became pregnant.." This is an extreme example of telling, which is boring. It includes the followingwords which should be avoided whenever possible:- 'had', 'was' and 'were'.

An alternative could be:

Queen Anne looked out of the window at children playing with a ball in the courtyard of the castle. She sighed. "If only we could have a child."

King James put his arm around her. "Perhaps we will."

Queen Anne doubted it until, several months later, she disturbed her husband in a council meeting to speak to him privately.

"What is it," the king asked, "you know you shouldn't interrupt me when-"

"Shush, your majesty. I couldn't wait to tell you I am expecting a child."

When I finish a novel, I highlight 'had', 'was' and 'were'. I then see if I can rephrase text containing these words.

Of course, the culprits are part of the English Language that we cannot avoid using, but we should make sure we are showing the reader what happens not telling them what happened.

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