Writing instructors frequently urge their students to show, not tell. Showing deals with sensory input as experienced through the eyes of the viewpoint character. Showing leaves a lot of the work to the reader. Guessing a character’s background from the way they speak. Sensing tension or danger from subtle hints in the story or, alternatively, from the acceleration of events part of the way through a story.
Telling, on other hand, is obvious. The writer spells out the details. No room left for the imagination.
But should an author always show rather than tell? Possibly not.
- Sometimes, a chunk of information is so crucial that the story wouldn’t work without it. Simply using dialogue to cover this might not work. Sometimes, better just to outline the facts as briefly as possible.
- A character pays a return visit to a place that has played a significant role in their life. Short chunks of background information about some past major event connected with the place might deepen the immediacy in the present.
- Lots of dramatics events, one following another. I think taking time out and bringing the reader up to date with a short summary of what’s happened can help calm the pace.
Just a few of my thoughts.