Weeding Out the "Telly"

Posted on May 1, 2009. Filed under: concise writing, prepositional phrases, show don't tell |

No, not Brit TV. So often, we do a fantastic job of showing our character’s attitudes and emotions. Then, just in case our reader doesn’t get it, we tack on a stale, tired description that is telly and uneeded. An example of this: He grimaced in pain. How many folks do you know who grimace in pleasure (except maybe my cat)? Or how about: She tore through the corridor, and glanced over her shoulder to see who may have been following her. Most of the time, it’s not difficult to spot these telly additions. Look for prepositional phrases, that is words such as “to,” “in,” “after,” “before.” These phrases are often added by the writer who worries the reader won’t understand what is being acted out.
Writing Tip for Today: Look for prepositional phrases tacked on after “showing” the reader what’s happening. Cut off the phrase and reread it to see how much you’re missing. If the action isn’t clear, try using more specific or active verbs that pinpoint the action for the reader without all that “telly” explanation.


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