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Movies Show * Books Tell

You've heard that phrase, 'don’t tell, show,' as in don't tell the story, but show the story.

Of course you have. I know you have, because if I heard it, I know everyone has heard it. I'm just like the rest... when I first heard the snazzy line, I was hooked on the rhyme of the words too... like something I'd caption in one of my stories over and over to death. Instantly I bought into the inanity of the colloquialism; in full sight of everything I was reading and hearing, persisting on telling me a story.

I didn’t put two and two together until one day when I was sitting back observing the differences between the books I was reading, from the books I couldn’t get into. What in a Merry Halloween was going on here?

When things like this happen, no real writer sits idly by, covering his or her ears and eyes. You look! That's what we do. And we figure the inanity out. It simply goes against a true writers grid to fumble along ignoring dogmatic questions that keep doubling back to hop in our line of vision, waving and doing the Cabbage Patch and whatnot. (Okay, so that was corny... and did I just give away my age?).

At any rate, here’s the real story, the part where I’m going to type out a golden nugget real fast. In a precarious moment, a precious time, I happened to catch a news report on television running numbers on who was tuning in to watch which news channels...

...This was my ah ha moment. The moment when I leaned forward, squinted, and sighed, “...look at the size of that golden nugget!”

Just like that it made sense. I even pictured it, without any assistance from the reporter still running the wicked numbers.

I visualized a talking movie, BUT no picture, and a showing book, WITHOUT words. Yes, Houston, we had us an agglomerate problem. That ‘ole don’t tell, do show was as wrong as a bed of nails covering un-quilted mattress.



  1. I've heard "show, don't tell" so much as a writer that I almost start to forget what it means, lol. Tell: "She was mad." Show: "She swung the vase against his head." I think once we get it, then, alright. But every rule is meant to be broken every now and again!

    1. Exactly. "She was mad," would make a very short book, like "swinging vases" leave readers wondering why and what is the story about? Come on! Tell me a story!


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