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April 13, 2010 / theoldsilly

Professor Old Silly Tutorial Tuesday – First Class

While the Old Silly is still rockin’ with the writer’s zone, these reposts of early Professor Old Silly have been quite well accepted and appreciated. Here’s one from a year ago, in fact it was the very first ever …

Bloggyversity, English composition class 10001.3b,

“Writing With Power in Fiction.”

Here we go with a lesson on the difference in writing styles known as:

Show and Tell

An important element in writing fiction effectively is knowing when you are telling the readers your story and when you are showing it to them. There is a place in any good book for both methods, but the shown passages are always more illustrative, while the told passages are more narrative. They create two entirely different effects. Instead of telling you the difference, I will show you. Here is a short paragraph, an example of a story being told to the reader.


Bob walked over to the door. He turned the door knob, opened the door and started to walk outside. It was an icy cold winter day so he hurried back inside and put on his coat.


Now, if I’m the reader I haven’t missed anything, I know what’s happening, but the passage doesn’t draw me into Bob’s world. It doesn’t let me feel or sense much of anything. Now I’ll rewrite the same passage showing you the story.


Floor boards creaked underfoot. Step by step, across the room. The chill of cold brass felt smooth in his palm as the knob turned. A thunk nudged against the quiet as bolt released from its locked position. The squeak of old hinges cried “please oil me” to Bob as they pivoted. A final push, swing and a step. Whistling arctic wind whipped his face as shivers crept all over him.

Wow. Cold. Bob thought better of his choice of clothing. Slam!Nippy fingers worked their way through the dark foyer closet, feeling for heavy suede.


In the second example, we see, hear and feel Bob’s world. It’s a much sexier read. In fairness, I did not try very hard to write a powerful narrative in the first passage, because I was trying to emphasize a point. There are cases, lots of them, when narrative prose is just the right thing. A fist, knife or gunfight, for instance, often demands a fast, even hectic pace and needs to be told in a hurry. It depends on the speed with which you want ystudents ask questionsour story to move, but that will be the subject of another post.

Any questions? Feel free to ask … yes? Please, one at a time, yes young lady – young man, I’ll get to you next.

Okay. Blog dismissed. Please leave your comments on my blog desk, and blog back in tomorrow. Please do be on time. Much to cover. Chow!

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Leave a Comment
  1. Elizabeth Spann Craig / Apr 13 2010 5:23 am

    A great lesson, Professor! Thanks for sharing….

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  2. John Standish / Apr 13 2010 5:46 am

    Glad I could catch up on this class – I missed it the last semester, lol.

  3. Cactus Annie / Apr 13 2010 6:00 am

    Great class, Old Silly. I enjoyed it both times. “Showing” is definitely a much “sexier” read! 😉

  4. Ron Berry / Apr 13 2010 9:14 am

    Thanks for the reprint. This is my downfall.

  5. tashabud / Apr 13 2010 11:49 am

    I like it when you do show us how it’s done, instead of just telling us how it’s done. I learn better this way, and I’m learning a lot from you.


  6. ReformingGeek / Apr 13 2010 1:15 pm

    Whoa! I’m all studied out, Marvin. I need a nap.

    I hope the writing is going well.

  7. Leeuna / Apr 13 2010 1:22 pm

    Great teaching Marvin. That revised paragraph dang near froze me to death. I see what you’re saying about show — don’t tell. Happy writing. 🙂

  8. Alex J. Cavanaugh / Apr 13 2010 4:21 pm

    Great example, Marvin.

  9. Helen Ginger / Apr 13 2010 4:45 pm

    The second one was so intense, I kept waiting for a man with a hatchet to be on the doorstep!

    Straight From Hel

  10. L. Diane Wolfe / Apr 13 2010 7:47 pm

    I remember this! Excellent choice, Marvin.

  11. Simon Hay / Apr 14 2010 12:13 am

    Thanks Marvin. Happy writing. I’m writing too, but have taken a break to visit. I left garden fresh veges on the porch. Enjoy.

  12. yvonne lewis / Apr 14 2010 5:29 am

    I do so enjoy these tuitions, very informative.


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