Show, don't tell — or How to make a mountain out of a molehill

My thoughts

Storytelling sounds so much better than story showing, don’t you agree? And yet, in the world of writing, there is this mantra: "show, don’t tell." According to some persons, a book is determined to be either good or bad on this one basis. But is "show, don’t tell" really the cornerstone of good writing? I don’t think so.

I have read several articles about "show, don’t tell" and inevitably the person writing the article takes one sentence or a short paragraph that is written very plainly as an example of telling and then they rewrite it in a more interesting way as an example of showing. Afterward, they make this conclusion: “There, isn’t that better? You see, showing is so much better than telling!" Of course, you can take one sentence or paragraph that is poorly written and just about anyone can rewrite it in a more interesting way. I dare say, you can then take the showing, rewrite and rewrite it yet again and keep coming up with a better sentence. That is, after all, why authors write and rewrite their books until they’re happy with them.

I have read reviews where the reader enjoyed a book but complained about misspelled words and bad grammar, but I have never read a review where the reader said it was a good book but found fault because there was telling and not showing. This is why I would maintain that a more significant way to determine if what is written is good or not is how interesting and entertaining it is. An author can show all he wants in his writing, but if his characters are not compelling or the story is of no interest or, perhaps better said, not told in an interesting way, the technical mumbo jumbo about "show, don’t tell" is completely irrelevant. It’s a bit like saying, “I love the color of my car! Didn’t the painters do a wonderful job?”— but the car doesn’t have an engine or wheels.

This malarky about show, don’t tell strikes me like a silly fashion craze that lasts for one summer, whereas good storytelling— yes, telling— is like blue jeans. They’ve been around forever and they never go out of fashion.