Descriptive Essay Show Not Tell

1)Note how Proulx blends telling us about long-range character experiences (‘he survived childhood’) with small physical and emotional details about Quoyle. We form a sense of Quoyle’s lived, bodily reality when Proulx describes his ‘gas and cramps’.

For example, an author could write:‘Sarah locked her front door, and, glancing at her watch, saw she was late for her train.

She broke into a sprint and arrived four minutes later, out of breath, as the train pulled away.’Perhaps the reader doesn’t need so much detail about the mundane activity of catching a train.

We don’t feel the character’s rumbling cramps with as much empathy as when we read ‘gut roaring with gas and cramp’.

This blending works because we see the character’s unique individuality.

Gradgrind is described with short, compact and informative telling at first:‘A man of facts and calculations.

A man who proceeds upon the principle that two and two are four …’ (p.‘Show, don’t tell’ is something every aspiring author has heard or read at some point.It’s true that telling the reader about your characters’ acts and emotions or your settings is often weaker than showing them.Proulx shows us Quoyle’s behaviour in specific moments, along with the broader sweep of his childhood. What makes Tolkien’s Mordor so real in his cycle is its sulfurous pits and gloomy, dark detail:‘The gasping pools were choked with ash and crawling muds, sickly white and grey, as if the mountains had vomitted the filth of their entrails upon the lands about.Setting description is another area where you may be tempted to tell the reader more than show. High mounds of crushed and powdered rock, great cones of earth fire-blasted and poison-stained, stood like an obscene graveyard in endless rows, slowly revealed in the reluctant light.’In this passage from , Tolkien creates a visceral sense of Mordor as a place.If we rewrote this same example of ‘showing’ as expository ‘telling’:‘That morning, Sarah had sprinted for the train but arrived seconds too late.’This telling simplifies, moving the story along quickly to the next piece of information.‘That morning’ implies that the event precedes a more important piece of information (the consequences of Sarah’s lateness, for example).Read examples from books that put ‘show, don’t tell’ in context and reveal how to blend showing and telling effectively: In storytelling, both telling and showing are necessary.For a cohesive story, we sometimes need to know how characters got from A to B to C.1)In his story opening, Dickens deftly moves to dialogue that Gradgrind’s ‘by-the-rules’, bullish character. Call yourself Cecilia.’ ‘It’s father as calls me Sissy, sir,’ returned the young girl in a trembling voice, and with another curtsey. 1-2)In how Gradgrind addresses Sissy, Dickens shows us the traits described in the first introduction.Gradgrind interrogates one of his pupils:‘Girl number twenty,’ said Mr. For Gradgrind, there is ‘correct’ way to act and this is reflected in his quibbling over Sissy Jupe’s name.


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