Show me, don’t tell me.

I know this old chestnut comes up time and again, but I’m revisiting it again because it still causes problems, particularly for those new to the writing game.

Every writer will have come across the expression, ‘Show, don’t tell’, whether it’s in a creative writing how-to book, during a writing tutorial or in an on-line forum or blog. It has become a cliché in itself, but what does it actually mean to the fledgling writer? It’s a surprisingly tricky concept to get the hang of, so let’s pick it apart and examine it.

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In Conversation

What’s the difference between dialogue and conversation? In creative writing, dialogue may only be a conversational exchange between two or more people, but it’s got to have purpose, otherwise it’s just chat. Conversation is the way people talk; dialogue contributes to the plot. Dialogue must move the story on, by revealing something about the characters or the plot. Good dialogue is the mark of a fine writer; forced and clunky dialogue betrays the bad.

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