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52. Tell Don’t Show

52. Tell Don’t Show

We’ve talked a lot about narrative hooks and mystery boxes, but don’t let the fact that you need to leave a few things to your audience’s imagination keep you from telling them anything at all.

When you get hamstrung with narrative gymnastics, your story can start losing its point.

No matter how you choose to frame it, the primary goal of a story is still to convey a message clearly. Anything that defeats that purpose should be either edited out or understood for what it is.

Take a bit more advice from James Kelly,

‘Show, don’t tell,’ can be a dangerous policy. Prolix writers think they must dramatize everything. But a story isn’t a game of charades; you’re allowed to come right out and tell the reader what’s what. Do you really need a rhapsodic paragraph about Amanda’s aquiline nose and alabaster skin and piercing blue eyes and tawny mane when all you wanted to say was that George was attracted to her? When necessary tell, don’t show.

Drama is important, but don’t trade it for your stories credibility.

Speaking of drama.

Before you click through a see this, I want to say that I like the Tudors, I really do but well . . . just watch the clip. It reminds me a little bit of today’s gem from Sylvester “Sly” Stallone.

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