One of the advices a writer often gets is: “show, don’t tell”. With that, they mean that it is often better to ‘show’ what is happening, in stead of literally describing it in direct wording. You can write ‘John was really upset’. This leaves little to the imagination. The reader has to take your word on it. But by describing the situation, you offer the opportunity to the reader to empathize with the main character as if he looks through the eyes of the writer. Show the reader that John is angry, by having him throw plates at the wall while he turns red and shouts.
To ‘show’ you need more words and more details. Sometimes, you need a couple of paragraphs to ‘show’ what you can ‘tell’ in just a few words. You describe the emotion, the transition, the relationship, and the importance of this event to the person or the story. One of the ways to show, is using dialogue, because it represents the opinion of someone. Another way is to describe an atmosphere of a room or a space with many details. It is important that the reader is able to complete the meaning of the situation.
Use this technique only when it is of importance to the story. You may point out insignificant facts, but if they become meaningful it is better to ‘show’. Don’t bore your readers with details that are of no importance to the story.
Example of show and tell
Example (tell): It was almost twelve. Rachel was late for her appointment. The traffic had delayed her. She pressed the button of the elevator. As soon as the doors opened, sh stept in and pushed the button of the fourth floor. The doors closed and the elevator went up. When the doors opened again, she got out and walked towards room 412. That’s where she knocked on the door.
Example (show): Rachel looked at her Swiss watch for the third time. The dammed time kept on ticking. She felt a knot in her stomach while she kept pushing the button of the elevator. The fucking traffic. And now the elevator is slow too. This way, she’ll never be able to be in time for her appointment. With the toe of her shoe she rhythmically kicked against the wall of the elevator. When the elevator finally braked, she felt the content of her stomach rise. She took one last look in the mirroring wall of the elevator, smoothed her black dress with her hands, and walked firmly into the hallway of the hotel.
Both examples tell the same story. But in the second story we get an image of the feelings Rachel has, both physically and emotional.
Show, don’t tell in an erotic story
Particularly in erotic stories there is a big risk in braking the ‘show – don’t tell’ rule. Many authors of erotica have the urge to tell what is going on, and that is why many erotic stories read like a report. “He shoved his thick cock in her wet pussy” is a way of telling, that can also be ‘shown’. You know when you are telling, when the structure of your sentences is often the same. It reads a little bit like a four year old who’s telling about his day at school (I went to school, and then we played with blocks, and then we played outside, and in the brake I had a P&J sandwich). Try to describe sex as an experience. What was so good about it (or so bad)? Use synonyms, and metaphors, but don’t overdo it. Stimulate the fantasy. Leave room for interpretation.
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