Wait. . . I Can Explain

Posted on July 14, 2009. Filed under: American Christian Fiction Writers, novel writing, R.U.E., Resist the Urge to Explain, scene writing, show don't tell |

In my writing classes, I often write R.U.E. on student work. Resist the Urge to Explain is a fancy way of saying show don’t tell, but some writers are good at showing and then, just in case the reader doesn’t get it, they explain what that showing meant. Readers would rather you stopped at the showing.
As writers, we must manage our readers. We are bound to point them in the right direction, stress one thing over another, foreshadow or withold information at just the right time. Yet readers don’t want to be told what to think or have obvious explanations served to them as if they can’t come to any conclusion.
An example might be: Fred clenched his jaw and smacked one balled fist into his palm. “You’ll never get away with this!” he bellowed. Fred felt really really angry, angrier than he’d ever felt before. If you tagged the first two sentences as “showing,” and the last sentence as telling, you’re correct. Watch for words such as felt, noticed, realized. Use of these words often signal that you are telling the reader what they rather be shown.
Writing Tip for Today: While clarity is important in helping your reader experience your scenes as you envisioned them, it’s also a good idea not to insult that gentle reader. Show don’t tell, true, but contain the natural urge to tack on a worn-out “telly” phrase. By Resisting the Urge to Explain, you’ll satisfy the reader’s desire to experience the story, not just be told the story. Learn to show artfully, but R.U.E.


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