October 2, 2006

Betsy's Telling vs. Showing

I've excerpted this comment from http://www.ridorlive.com under the topic of "more about Shirley Schultz-Meyers". I usually don't do that but her article blew me away because I try to avoid telling people that the person is a bad person...Instead I would explain my experience being with the person, situation that has occured, list the conflicts that brewed between us and trying to find a solution. That's a perfect example that I think everyone should read! A great lesson for everyone, especially in our circles of friends.

10. Betsy Says: (In response to Ricky's comments about a person)
September 26th, 2006 at 6:47 pm

"abrasive, rude, and awful"

That's you telling us about her. Which is fine. Your perspective is valid. But it is hard for people to totally understand what you mean when we haven't seen it ourselves. Makes it difficult for others to validate you further, because maybe they perceive people's personalities differently from you.

My creative writing professor (no, not Heuer) always emphasized "SHOW, not tell"–in other words, describe scenes instead of telling… like ummm….

"Her skin flushed scarlet and her lips trembled as her eyes narrowed…"

Now compare that to:"She was furious and was on the verge of shouting…"

The first sentence shows the actual physical quality of what is happening to her emotionally, while the second sentence is merely a retelling without the evidence of the first sentence.
So my point is… "abrasive, rude and awful" is telling, not showing… Just wanted to clarify how I perceive your use of words, and perhaps, suggest that in the future maybe you can try and observe more closely the actual physical characteristics of how people treat you, since those can be described more objectively than sharing your own opinion of how someone is treating you. Developing the ability to SHOW through your own words is very helpful especially when it comes to political battles like fighting for human rights and providing testimony…
Another example of showing vs. telling:

"The officer wouldn't look me in the eye. I tried to give him my notepad and paper, but he kept on waving me off, like I was an annoying bug. I didn't dare approach him closer than 3 feet, for fear of getting arrested for insubordination. That means I could not even tap him on the shoulder to get his attention. Finally, the interpreter arrived but still, the officer persisted in addressing me in the third person–he would say to the interpreter, "tell her"… I was very frustrated."

"The officer didn't respect my need for eye contact. He would not respond to my attempts to communicate with him. I didn't feel comfortable in his presence, I was afraid of him. When the interpreter arrived, he still treated me like a baby and gave the interpreter the responsibility to communicate with me instead of him talking to me as if I was a real person. I was very frustrated."

Which do you think is clearer and shows more evidence of discrimination?

Anyway, that's just some food for thought I wanted to dish out

Hope I make sense?"

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