Dearest Blog Followers,
My sincerest apologies for my extended hiatus. September took my soul and hid it among my piles of unending work. The first weeks of October took my mind and made brownies for a bake-sale. I'm still in recovery mode, but I'm back, sort of, and I plan to be a more regular blogger.
Okay, on to the real meat.
Oh, wait, I recently returned to my vegetarian roots (root-vegetables?). Perhaps I should say, on to the real kale.
How do you know when to Show and when to Tell?
Okay, and now we all groan together and then get back to work, right?
No, I'm serious. A few months ago I entered a contest in which everyone who entered their first three chapters automatically got a three-chap critique from an agent. So, DUH! I entered. In looking back at my entry, I cringe slightly, as it has gone through numerous revisions since, but I gave her what I had. And, of course, it is my first novel, which I continue to beat into submission despite its own intentions. So, let's just say, it's not super. I'm still learning the craft. I'm rusty like that drink you make with Scotch... or how you feel after you drink it, anyway. So, yeah, I hadn't expected to win. No way.
What I had expected were slightly less-than-generic comments.
When I got them, I wigged out. Yeah, anger, etc. You name it, I felt it. The comments included the old stand-bys of "Show more" and "Remove clichés" and "Cut back on the wordiness", etc. And that was it. No specifics. So, in my wiggy-outtiness, I sent those three chapters and the general comments to a woman in my critique group who, I might add, is awesome in her straight-forwardness and won't beat around the bush.
If nothing else, she said that the clichés weren't my problem. *whew*
But that brings us back to show v. tell. She and I began a long discussion about it, when telling is too much, and—here's the kicker—when showing is too much.
I believe in showing. I do. Here's a great blog post that explains my understanding of it. And, yeah, I probably tell too much in my first three chapters. I'm considering rewriting them blind and changing the basic premise altogether, anyway. That aside, here's my question:
Can you show too much?
If you show EVERYTHING, does your reader get overwhelmed? By showing everything, are we not trying to tell our readers that every minor flip of hair or memory is of the utmost vital information? Sometimes events and actions occur to develop character, not necessarily to move the plot. Are these to be given equal weight?
Or am I, in wondering these things, making the age-old mistakes of the green writer?
In the blog post I linked to above, in the first scene example she gives, the last paragraph—the one that gives the punch to the dialogue—is technically showing. Am I wrong? Seriously, folks, am I? You can't show EVERYTHING! If you did, we'd be reading War and Peace every time we picked up a novel, but even Tolstoy tells us things!
Help me out, folks. I'm pretty sure I'm missing something here.