As referenced in my title, there is an expectation in writing that the author not “tell” the reader things, but rather “show” him. I understand this logic and have been very careful to be sure I’m describing my story well. For example, is the the character simply “angry” or does she “clench her fists at her side, turn red in the face and spew venomous profanities”? You get the idea.
But, I really enjoyed this article suggesting the overuse of “show, don’t tell.” A book is not a movie. To be sure, there should be much description in a novel to allow our minds to create images and understanding. And yet, there is power in the subtle art of expressing a character’s thought and emotions in words.
To support this, I think of the fifth Harry Potter movie and the reviews that bashed Harry’s apparent teen angst and anger that seemed to come out of nowhere. “Why is Harry so mad?” the reviewer asked. I read those articles in wonder. Hadn’t the reviewer read the book? Of course he hadn’t. If he had, he would have known (as any good Potter fan would) Harry was battling the (literal) inner demon of Voldemort. Harry wasn’t hormonal…he was haunted.
A movie couldn’t “show” that. A book would have difficulty “showing” it as well. On the other hand, the book could “tell” you. I guess, then, there is a fine balance an author must learn, and I sure hope I’m learning it.