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Show, Don't Tell: A Writer's Guide

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Covers openings and closings, tension, dialogue, melodrama, plot, narrative, pacing, characterization, point of view, and diction

224 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1991

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William Noble

49 books6 followers

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5 stars
29 (26%)
4 stars
39 (35%)
3 stars
31 (28%)
2 stars
8 (7%)
1 star
2 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 11 of 11 reviews
Profile Image for Peter West.
Author 22 books63 followers
February 12, 2013
There is some useful material in this book, but it takes a lot of digging around to find it. I'm not sure who this book is aimed at. It seems to be 70% analysis of literature with examples, combined with a general theme of how many different ways show and tell can appear in fiction. The focus seems to wander around. A more concise and specific book would have been better for me, but maybe I'm not the target market.
Profile Image for Ron.
891 reviews11 followers
June 9, 2011
Found a used copy of this in an old bookstore. The market needs a good book on SDT, but the title here is a bit misleading. This is actually a very general book on writing and as such, dated but not bad, but the information on SDT techniques was minimal and disappointing, IMO.
Profile Image for Sully .
684 reviews16 followers
June 28, 2017
3.5 / 5 stars rating

This review is also posted at https://cabezadecrecre.wordpress.com/...

“Show don’t tell.” Every novice writer has been given this advice. I heard it over and over at the writers’ conference I went to last year. Yet no one took the time to explain how one goes about showing instead of telling. This is what Noble attempts to do in this novel.

Noble breaks his advice into the following sections:
– an intro that pops
– using sparing backstory
– adding tension to your story
– focusing on characters
– similes and metaphors (this I had actually heard before)
– dialogue
– melodrama
– anecdotes
– incidents
– narrative
– pacing
– specificity
– “what if” – which I learned about in Larry Brooks’s Story Engineering
– using all five senses (also mentioned at the conference)
– having a solid closing

While many of these have been previously mentioned to me, most were not presented in the context of showing, which Noble does well in this novel. I do wish he had focused a little more on the craft and less on the examples. While some of the examples served to drive the point home, many of the points he made were common and easy to understand. As such, many of the examples I glazed over or skipped entirely.

Still, I thought it was a helpful novel for aspiring novelists, even if it is an older book. I took six pages of notes and plan to refer back to them during my editing process and future writing endeavors, as “show, don’t tell” is the biggest feedback I usually get.
Profile Image for Ruthie.
383 reviews6 followers
August 26, 2019
Whilst I found some of this useful, my overriding impression was that this was a great title in search of content.

Noble says his publisher came up with the title, riffing on the ubiquitous "Show and Tell" of US kindergarten education. And yes, it does sum up a major element of weak writing. But you also have writers like - well, TOLSTOY, for goodness sake, who does plenty of telling, rather than showing. And it's brilliant, breathtaking stuff to read.

But I'm being overly critical. Noble describes it like this: you're watching a puppet show and the creator stands slightly to once side and says 'see, Punch has come home angry. And the sausages are burnt.' The audience wants to watch the puppet show. Not listen to the creator.

The chapter about how to have a good opening has inspired me to go back to my WIP and flip round the events. I've started exactly as he advises not to: journalistic who, what, where why. Instead of starting the action and trusting the reader to make the connections.

So thank you, Mr Noble and sorry I was a bit mean about your book.
33 reviews4 followers
July 30, 2017
A well written guide to writing fiction.

There are many excellent guides available on the craft of writing. I enjoyed this one and upon reaching the end, I felt I was saying farewell to a good friend. Hopefully, my writing will be richer as a result.
16 reviews
October 27, 2022
Six of one, half a dozen of the other.

I bought this book to clarify what exactly show don't tell is. I read through the book carefully but was just as nonplussed at the end as the beginning! This says it all.
6 reviews1 follower
July 12, 2016
A must read book for want to be authors. Its direct, and backed with numerous excerpts from a variety of authors which help to enhance comprehension.
Displaying 1 - 11 of 11 reviews

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