Bogged Down In the Telling

Sometimes I forget to listen to the most basic advice. One of the best ‘rules’ of writing is to show and not tell. ‘Telling’ or over-explaining in fiction can really make the story drag. Twice now, I’ve lost momentum in my two works in progress and haven’t realized why. After enthusiastic beginnings and two great plots to develop, the stories became burdensome and I lost interest and joy. How does that happen?

Fortunately, in talking it over with another writer, it was brought to my attention that with my science fiction piece, I had been trying to ‘tell’ everything –that is to provide an explanation for every little circumstance that arose in the story. Granted, it is my pet peeve when I don’t understand ‘why’ something is the way it is, so I tend to lay out settings and background information logically. But a little of that can go a long way. Additionally, information can be woven throughout the story incrementally so as not to overwhelm [read: bore] the reader in the beginning. Besides, I’m already asking the reader to suspend disbelief in writing science fiction, so it only follows that certain aspects just can’t be perfectly explained –they just ‘are’ they way I’ve written them. And trying to explain everything just makes the writing tedious. I know all this, but I just didn’t apply it. Showing and not telling is more enjoyable for the reader AND the writer.

Happy writing and productive editing!

Header image via Pinterest.

33 thoughts on “Bogged Down In the Telling

    1. I hear you… I will probably let it sit for a while and get back to serious writing after the move. I just can’t concentrate on anything longer than a short story or poem. And even that…. 🤯

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I understand. I’ve been shredding and packing and tiling and clearing out rooms. I’ve had granite put in and plumbers and last is backsplash this weekend and carpet in upstairs hall then on the market next week hopefully. Writing has been put on the back burner for now.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Thanks so much for sharing your experience, Meg! As an author new to the game, hearing the stories and experiences of those more seasoned then I, helps a lot. I currently have two WIP, one based in an existing fiction and another completely original, and I’m a little nervous! I’ll be sure to remember the age-old-rule of ‘show don’t tell.’

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    1. I’m glad it’s helpful Mark. I think this is one of the most common mistakes we make, even if you’re experienced. The tendency to want the reader to understand exactly what you mean is overwhelming! Best of luck with your WIPs!

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    1. Aha, keep them guessing, eh? 😃 I usually catch this stuff at the editing stage, but I had been posting the story to the blog and I think that was part of the problem. Writing in installments has you constantly reminding readers of the things that happened a couple of episodes ago.

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  2. For me, I think the tell gets overworked if I don’t know the thing Im talking about. I want to explain more than needed. If I know the subject, then I can show with ease and enjoy the writing. I guess the balance is the do more research and know the “Thing,” so the telling part is not relied on so much.

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    1. That is a very good point. I started the AI story on a whim. I’m usually a meticulous researcher, too. It’s no wonder I bogged down. My main WIP – the World War One story is taking a long time for that very reason – I’m researching extensively. Thanks Darnell!

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  3. I think telling comes a little more naturally. One writing instructor posits that good non-fiction should have a balance of showing and telling. Probably in fiction it skews more to showing. I wondered why we hadn’t seen more of the story, but it’s understandable when you’re going through this big move.

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    1. Thanks, Eilene. I plan to return to it. I just can’t concentrate on a work of any length. Not until things settle down at least! I’ll give it a good edit before continuing on too.

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  4. When I’m writing (rare lately), I remind myself of this often. I think it’s easy to fall into lengthy descriptions and explanations instead of just letting things be. I know that I tend to want to describe the way I visualize something, but that may be a bad thing because maybe the reader wants to have their own vision, not mine.

    Liked by 1 person

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