Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Showing versus Telling: SUBTLE TELLING part 2

Hi ya'll, this will be brief--just checking in during my intensive week/s of revising my novel, SHAPERS. I've been slashing, adding scenes, and eliminating Telling--oh my!

Today, I'll add another example of Telling from last week's list.

Telling in dialogue…don't do it!


"Do you want me to get those extra batteries for the flashlights at the store?" Tim asked his mother. "I can pick them up on the way home from school."

"Sure," his mother said, smiling. "That would save me some time before we leave on the camping trip for Yosemite in the morning."

First, it sounds here like both Tim and his mother know what the batteries are for, because he says THOSE batteries, as in previously discussed batteries. Therefore, Tim doesn't need to say "for the flashlights." Second, both Tim and his mother know they're going camping in Yosemite, so the mother wouldn't name their destination. They also both probably know they are leaving in the morning.

These cluttery bits of information are only there to inform the reader, and they are not part of either character's natural dialogue. Omit this kind of Telling, and find other (sneakier) ways to let the reader know what you want them to know. Doing it as shown in the example dilutes the authenticity of your dialogue as well as your characters.

Really, the only necessary part of the mother's last sentence is: "That would save me some time." No need to say more.

Off to revise some more. Have a great day!


  1. Great point! I've found myself doing that a lot. And thanks to great posts like this, I'm now able to catch more and more problems in my writing, so thanks!

  2. Thanks, Jamie--I do this ALL the time. Have to change my bad habits!

  3. Great advice. I'm terrible when it comes to telling and I always give myself far too much work when it comes to editing ;)


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