Techniques for Showing
Showing is reserved for the important parts of the story. Showing is the technique of using specific details to imply one or more underlying meanings. The advantage is that it’s very engaging for the audience, but over time it can prove tiring, as audiences struggle to understand the significance of the text.
Techniques for Telling
Telling is the technique of summarizing or plainly stating something. Examples include summaries of events (they fought), the physical state of an object or environment (the room was a mess), or the mental, emotional, or moral state of a character (she was happy). Telling is often dismissed as bad writing, but the reality is it’s an essential writing technique. Telling helps to maintain the focus of a story by conveying essential information using a minimum of words. The technique itself denotes a hierarchy. “What I’m telling you is necessary, but it’s not important.” Telling is a way of establishing that the focus of the story lies elsewhere.
Background information is a tricky aspect of storytelling. Background information is one or more details that don’t seem relevant or important in the moment, but as the story progresses audiences work to collect and combine the different pieces of background information, gradually developing a greater understanding of who a character is.