Friday, February 21, 2014

Why the "Show Don't Tell" Mantra WORKS for Nonfiction and Essay Writing Too!

Ok, maybe I'm getting a little crazy with giving away all my good ideas. But karma is a great thing. In the spirit of forwarding creative writing, I've got something to say about "Show don't Tell." Many of these ideas are available in my upcoming product on teachers pay teachers, "Characterization Master Course: Fiction and Nonfiction Writing and Analysis with CCSS"

In this upcoming super master course, I separate Direct and Indirect Characterization from the "Show don't Tell" rule. They are different, in that the latter is really a guideline that teachers offer up as a reminder, or, that often attempts to describe the difference between indirect and direct characterization.

The fact is....and here is where you might want to take some notes, folks...

Show don't tell at its worst can be damaging to students who then go on to over explain and guild every sentence with one hundred adjectives, embracing the spirit though missing the goal entirely of what this guideline implies. At its best, "Show don't tell" ALSO offers up simple rules that CAN when used PROPERLY - this being the key word - help fiction writers and NONFICTION writers be stronger, more engaging writers.

Some General Rules People Attribute to "Show, Don't Tell"
One of the guidelines writers have offered up regarding "Show don't Tell" have to do with the use of verbs and adverbs. Many of the rules are tailored for fiction writing. The takeaway is that some of the rules in practice are useful in essay writing. For example:
    - active over passive
    - avoid "to be" verbs
    - use adverbs when necessary, otherwise, again, use a stronger verb
    - It is better to write in simple tenses (present or past) rather than the progressives (ing),
      or with the "As" construction ("As I knocked on the door, I readied my suitcase and calling

There are more. The crux is the by applying these rules to writing, whether it be a story or an essay will yield a stronger product, and by doing this repeatedly over time will result in a stronger writer. As you se below, this is an example of the standard "overwriting" students do in an attempt to be scholarly. The first example is too long and uses unnecessary phrases. The second uses strong verbs.

Nonfiction essay writing example:
analysis of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

First Attempt: In the novel, as Dr. Frankenstein views the creature for the first time, he's horrified
             by the monster he had created.
After: Victor refused the monster he had toiled to create.

Next time... more discussions and freebie ideas leading up to the major launch.

All the best, and until then,
Happy writing, reading and teaching,



No comments:

Post a Comment