Show and tell

We’re always being told as writers to show the action rather than telling. Sometimes that can be a struggle. Well, I’ve just watched the first few minutes of Unbreakable, and that’s an excellent example. It’s a movie, so they can’t tell you “the relationship between him and his wife was on the rocks.” Instead, they show in a series of scenes – he removes his wedding ring and tries to talk to a young lady. She tells him she’s married and moves away. He puts his ring back on. He walks out into the hospital waiting area, and his son rushes up to him, while his wife moves more slowly. The kiss is tentative, forced. They start by holding hands as they walk out, but the hands soon fall apart, as though feeling unnatural. Those scenes tell you everything you need to know about the relationship.

So maybe, next time you struggle with showing and telling, imagine watching it on the screen. What could you see that would get that message across, instead of just giving the information?

Screenplays and novels are very different media, but comparing the two, and considering scenes from one told in the other form, can be really enlightening.


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