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Bad dialogue? (Telling instead of showing) (1 Viewer)

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Lia

Member
In one of my novels, there's a part in which a character accuses another of wanting to hide their weakness by acting tough. They are supposed not to get along with each other, and that kind of comment is expected from the character who says it, and I really want it there, but do you think it tells too much instead of showing? His accusation is true, and I give some hints that it is several pages before this happens, but I'm still not sure. Any thoughts?
 

Jon M

WF Veterans
Don't worry about this show/tell rule. Just focus on writing dialogue that sounds natural to the character(s).
 

DanesDarkLand

Senior Member
Rules, guidelines, and trends change. The best way to write is what sounds right. The one acting tough is unlikely to say so, but is your character the type to point it out? Usually your character decides what to say. It sounds clunky, or awkward when they say something they would never say, or do something they would never do.

If they do something out of character, you might have written it incorrectly. Write it, then read it. Then decide. You'll know when you hear your voice say the words.
 

Gamer_2k4

WF Veterans
Sometimes the most obvious thing to everyone else isn't obvious to the one person who needs to know about it. If this is what your character needs to hear, leave it in.
 

Nickleby

WF Veterans
In a case like this, with showing you have to walk a fine line between weakness and toughness. Too much weakness, and the reader doesn't understand the tough facade. Too much toughness, and the reader won't sympathize with the character. With this exchange, you can emphasize the toughness ahead of time and contrast it by having the other character point out the weakness. Which, I'm guessing, is the balance you want to show.

So showing isn't always preferable to telling. There are no rules in writing, only guidelines. Don't let someone else's idea of a good story get in the way of a good story.
 

Staff Deployment

WF Veterans
"You just act tough to hide your weakness!" accuses Bob.

"Oh really," says Sally. "That's just the kind of remark I expect from you!"
 

dolphinlee

Senior Member
Leave it in

You know your characters better than anyone else. If it is appropriate at this point for your character to say it then that's fine. As a reader I pick up hints subliminaly. This dialogue would confirm that I am getting the information the author has put in.

In the Lord of the Rings DVD set there are special features on one Peter Jackson talks about using as little narrative as possible in his work. (He is talking about having to add a scene where two characters discuss what is going on in order to move the film along.) This scene is an example of tell. In some cases it is necessary.

If the information is given when characters are having a natural conversation ("You hide your weakness by acting tough.") this is not tell.

If it was I would have to rewrite 80% of my book.

It is more important to write naturally then to worry about the rules.

Good luck
 

mockingbird

Senior Member
telling is when you write - she told him not to do that again.
Showing is: She said : "don't do that again!"
As long as the character actually speaks you are showing.
Another common telling is - she heard a noise and went to investigate it. Showing would be - she heard a noise that sounded like someone was using her shower. She went to the bathroom and saw ....
 

Staff Deployment

WF Veterans
In regards to what mockingbird said, I'm going to play devil's advocate and say the opposite.

"You just act tough to hide your weakness!" accuses Bob.

"Oh really," says Sally. "That's just the kind of remark I expect from you!"

That was telling.

Also Staff Deployment said:
"You ever gonna take that kevlar vest off, eh Sally?" said Bob. "Someday that vest's gonna break, and you're gonna get shot."

Sally glared at him for a moment, then turned away with a snarl.

This is more along the lines of showing. Unless Sally is literally wearing a kevlar vest. In that case Bob is kind of a weird guy, isn't he?
 
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