Several posts back I explained the concept of showing vs. telling by using the example of an online dating profile to demonstrate the difference. Today, I’d like to delve into a key reason why it’s important to show and not tell your readers.
Being told is annoying!
I recently read a novel by a world-famous author who has sold hundreds of millions of books around the world, which admittedly is hundreds of millions more than I have sold. However, despite her success and fame, I wanted to throw this particular novel out the window, and I might have done so had I not been on an airplane while reading it.
Here’s what drove me nuts: Over and over, the author told me about the wonderful, loving, supportive relationships the protagonist enjoyed with her husband and daughter, often repeating herself as she did so – and by repeating herself I mean literally using the exact same phrases. If being told the relationships were wonderful, loving, and supportive wasn’t irritating enough (there were no examples to show me, just descriptions to tell me), over and over the author repeated herself to make her point. Did I mention that over and over she repeated herself to make her point? Yep, over and over she repeated herself to make her point.
See how irritating that is?
In addition to the tediousness of reading the same thing page after page after page after page, the repetition made me feel as if the author thought I wasn’t smart enough to “get it” the first time. But I am smart enough, and so are most readers. So take my experience to heart, and when you’re writing your own novel, give your readers some credit, and let them figure things out for themselves. I suspect they’ll appreciate you for doing so.
This blog post originally appeared on CreateSpace.com. Reprinted with permission. © 2014 CreateSpace, a DBA of On-Demand Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.