Show, show and show

Someone recently asked me for advice on starting to write fiction, which made me wonder what the essential advice should be. I then hit upon the Three Shows.

1. Show don’t tell: the classic, of course, but it does require examples of showing and telling to make it clear. People don’t wander around with ‘angry’ tattooed to their foreheads, but they do clench their fists and squint. I’d put characters telling each other things they already know for the benefit of the readers in this category too.

2. Show one way: this is pick a Point-of-View and stick to it, pick a tense (authorial past) and stick to it. This is to avoid confusion and watering down the impact. First person present is probably the most exciting and immediate, but can be a bit trying. Stories you tell someone else about someone are always “single third person past tense”.

3. Show, load, fire! This is Chekhov’s if you show a gun in the first act, you have to fire it in the last act. I’d add a point that you need to remind the audience of the gun somewhere in the middle and it leads into Three Act Struture. A show and load without a bang is a loose end and a fire without warning is a Deus Ex Machina.

I think that sort of covers the basics, I think.


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