Depending on your style of writing, telling can kill the reader’s experience. After all, if the reader is trying to immerse him/herself in the world of a book, having the writer tell them how or why something happened can be singularly annoying.
To my mind, there are two ways to tell in writing. Both are bad for my style, although I know that having an omniscient narration changes things. Point is, if you don’t, these two are definitely priority things to fix.
The first way to tell is in the way you describe things and actions. In a story, the reader needs to experience everything through the point of view character. So suddenly having a generic sort of sentence telling them something doesn’t work.
What will fit better? (Assuming that the character isn’t a boring sort of person.)
The plate had a blue pattern on it.
The plate’s rich blue pattern told the age old story of star-crossed lovers fleeing together in search of a chance together.
Yeah yeah, I know that neither is Shakespeare, but I think you get the point.
The other tell would be in narrative. Don’t tell everything. Account for everything, yes, but not in such a way that reveals everything immediately. Because if you do that, you lose a lot of tension. And as you know, tension is one thing you don’t want to lose.
So if something important is happening, make sure that you make the event noticeable, but it’s usually quite important that the reader can’t figure out what will happen because of that event. Predictability is not your friend.
When editing both types of tells, the secret is in wrapping the information in a lovely veil of words that will either decorate or disguise what you’re trying to say. But for heaven’s sake, don’t be obscure.
Look Out for These:
1) Phrases like: he saw, he thought, she felt, it tasted. Anything that puts a distance between the character’s and reader’s experiences of the same thing. Also: something was (insert description) or he/she/it had (insert description).
2) Having a character over-narrate, revealing the importance of something before its time.
3) Back-story that’s dumped in huge chunks that aren’t naturally flowing from the story.
Got any tips for cutting telling out of narration?