Show don’t tell. Show don’t tell. Show don’t tell. When I was a teaching assistant at the University of Pittsburgh from 2004 to 2006 I was constantly telling my writing students to “show don’t tell”. What does “show don’t tell” mean?
It means presenting a short story in a way so that the reader sees in his or her mind what is going on in the story instead of the writer “explaining” what is going on.
Seeing something is far more immediate than being told about something. But just how does a writer write in such a way that the reader can see the story in his or her mind?
The only way for a writer to make a story more visual is to describe actions and things. A reader can see an action. A reader can see a thing. But the writer must not write about any action or thing. The writer must write about those actions and those things that are invested with meaning.
In this way, the flash fiction, short short, very short story and micro fiction writer must spend less time writing about thoughts and emotions and more time writing about meaningful actions and things.
This is why a “show don’t tell” story will always be tighter than a story that explains.
The ebook that is available here at the Pittsburgh Flash Fiction Gazette is a perfect example of “show don’t tell” fiction. Just go to the sidebar on the right and click on the link to download your copy of Compressionism: The Pittsburgh Stories.
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