"Show" vs "Tell" in short stories and novels: What are some famous writings that

  1. Billie Kelpin profile image86
    Billie Kelpinposted 3 years ago

    "Show" vs "Tell" in short stories and novels: What are some famous writings that do each?

    It is the concensus of writing workshops that short stories and novels should "show" and NOT "tell". Are there some famous works that predominently "tell"?  What are some examples that overwhelmingly "show"?  And what are some that do an equal amount of "showing" AND "telling"?  I'm speaking only of short stories and novels, not screenwriting. I'm not an avid reader and I'm really looking for great examples of "telling".  Is "To Kill a Mockingbird" one? 


  2. WillStarr profile image82
    WillStarrposted 3 years ago
  3. Tusitala Tom profile image68
    Tusitala Tomposted 3 years ago

    I just had a look at Will Starr's excellent Hub on 'Show and Tell.'  Will is so good that when I read one of his fictional stories some years back I actually thought it was factual.  But back to your question.

    I've written a dozen or so books but only three major works of fiction.  In two of these I even used a 'prologue' to set the atmosphere for the yarn to follow.  It guess you could call these prologues 'showing.'  I'll include here an example of the show, then the tell, as a start to "The Sealers," and "Sailor Boy Blue."

    "The Sealers," beginning of prologue: Stark, the crags against the hard clear sky; Stark, the name of the man who sighted them from afar.  The sailors wanted to call the place 'Steep Island,' but their master named it in honour of the governor.  Yet he was second to name that land.  Captain Hasselburg of the colonial brig, Perseverence, beat him by a week."

    "Sailor Boy Blue" - Sex was Harry Webster's problem.  It wasn't that he wasn't getting enough: he wasn't getting any.  That was the problem.  All his mates were.  If you could believe them.  And Harry did.  For his wasn't the mind of the cynic and disbeliever; his the open, uncritical mind of the young.  At eighteen Harry was a virgin and ashamed of it.  As a sailor of three months standing, he was very ashamed of it.

    I also do a lot of oral storytelling before audiences.  In these instances it is a mixture of show and tell.  One moves into the story, introduces characters and dialogue.  This is show.  Then one moves out of the story to address the audience with a quick explanation if needed, this is tell.

    Hope this has helped.


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