Show Don’t Tell

Show, don’t tell. This bit of writing advice gets passed around a lot. And it’s good advice. Sometimes. It’s also easier said than done. Which, is kind of the point.

Show, don’t tell is more of a writing style than a writing rule. It doesn’t apply to everything. I don’t really like taking writing tips and advice as rules anyway. Every writer is different, every story is different, and every style is different. I mostly like show, don’t tell when it comes to demonstrating who a character is.

It’s no fun to read a story that tells you all these interesting traits the characters have, but none of them ever portray those traits in their actions. I don’t want to take the narrator’s word for it. I want the characters to tell me who they are, without actually telling me.

You can tell me all day long how strong-willed your MC is, but until they stand up for themselves, I’m not going to believe it. If you say the sidekick is kindhearted and loves helping people, they better be empathetic and helping whenever someone is hurt. You said the villain was torturous and cruel, but they haven’t done anything remotely villainous yet.

It’s not wrong to tell the reader something. Sometimes it’s necessary. So show, and tell.

What’s your stance on this bit of advice?