Often authors are told do adopt ‘a show not tell’ approach to their writing. This is a technique employed in various kinds of texts to enable the reader to experience the story through action, words, thoughts, senses, and feelings rather than through the author’s narrative and description. The goal is not to drown the reader in heavy-handed adjectives, but rather to allow readers to interpret significant details in the text.
‘Show, don’t tell’ should not be applied to all incidents in a story. According to James Scott Bell – Sometimes a writer ‘tells’ as a shortcut, to move quickly to the meaty part of the story. ‘Showing’ is essentially about making scenes vivid. If you try to do it constantly, the parts that are supposed to stand out won’t, and your readers will get exhausted.’Showing’ requires more words; ‘telling’ may cover a greater span of time more concisely. A book that contains only ‘showing’ would be incredibly long; therefore, a book that contains narrative may benefit.
I recently read two books that contained mostly dialogue. I don’t know whether the authors felt this was ‘showing’ and not ‘telling’, but personally, I like a bit of description and narrative. I find I relate to a book more when the characters and places are described. Perhaps by using all dialogue, the author may miss some aspects of ‘showing’ eg thoughts, senses and feelings of the character.
‘Showing’ invites the reader to become more emotionally involved, the imagery invoked allowing them to participate, not to simply read about it.
So, are you a ‘show-er’ or a ‘tell-er’? Probably you are a little of both, as most professional fiction writers use both styles at some point. They are equally useful techniques.