I judge a lot of contests. I can’t tell you how many times I see the “telling” in stories instead of the more emotional-punch of showing. And you can tell the difference between a new writer and a seasoned writer by how they describe things and really use that “showing” to their advantage.
I’m guilty of it, too. Sometimes I just get lazy as a writer and think, “Oh, I’ll go back and redo that later.” I’ve been trying to train myself to be a better first draft writer so the things I go back and edit are things that just need tweaking. This makes for a long first draft process but in the end, it makes a much cleaner draft to edit before shipping off to critique partners.
At any rate, I wanted to give you some examples of telling vs. showing. Are you ready? Here we go.
These examples are from my latest release from DCL Publications, Phoenix Fire.
He rounded the corner into the banquet hall and paused to take in the sights and sounds.
He rounded the corner into the banquet hall. Faint strains of harp and lute music floated through the mingling group of men—politicians and Citizens and other dignitaries. He even spotted a few Legion soldiers.
See the difference? In the original version, he pauses to take in the sights and sounds and then it goes on with the next paragraph. But in the revised version, we actually hear and see what the character is hearing and seeing. Instead of the generic “sights and sounds”.
Here’s another example.
Heads turned as Elena crossed the room, making Cassius jealous.
Heads turned as Elena crossed the room, rousing the jealousy in him with her every step. Cassius wanted to single-handedly rip out each one of their eyeballs.
I love this description – the fact that Cassius wants to rip out their eyeballs for looking at his woman cracks me up.
And one more.
After all they’d been through now that she obviously needed him she shoved him away, making him angry.
After all they’d been through now that she obviously needed him she shoved him away. His rage and frustration exploded. At her. At the Emperor. At this unnerving situation they were both in.
I’m sure there are better examples than I can give you, but at least this gives you the idea of the difference.