The old chestnut of every creative writing teacher is “Show, don’t tell”, but they rarely give you much else. If you always show, won’t all your stories be insanely long? Yes, they will. Showing every last detail of information is just bad writing and bad advice. Showing can become overwhelming, overbearing, and will bog down the narrative of your story. Once upon a time, I was in love with this style of writing typically found in Romanticism like Novalis. It doesn’t work to modern sensibilities, unfortunately. If we’re really going to get the most out of this maxim, then we need to get to the heart of it.
At one point in time you’ve read a novel or watched a movie and finished it saying, “Man, that was too preachy.” Some say on the nose, cheesy, spoon-fed, or in your face, but what they really mean is the writer didn’t use subtext to get across a message but rather used exposition in the dialogue or narration.
We’ll call this writer Captain Obvious. You don’t want to be Captain Obvious.
Here are a few reasons why: