If you write fiction you’re a storyteller. Other media–movies and comics, for example, show the audience the story. Fiction tells a story.
The oft-repeated advice, “show, don’t tell” is good for filmmakers and artists, but I have become convinced that it’s counterproductive for fiction writers.
And the examples used to back up the advice don’t even make sense. Because when you write “Alice stomped her feet and snorted” instead of “Alice was angry,” you are still telling the reader what happened.
All you’ve done is switched from a more conceptual to a more concrete description. Both have their place, depending on the mood and flow of the narrative.
Fiction, by its nature, is able to deliver conceptual information in ways that no other medium can. This is why films made from novels so often seem lackluster and dull compared to the source material. All a movie can do is show.
And there are some things that have to be told. Or you end up with fiction that feels like a scene by scene transcription of a film script.
A paragraph of well-written exposition (and yes, there is such a thing) can immerse a reader in a story more thoroughly than opening voiceovers or “as you know, Dr. Frankenstein” sections of dialogue in a film.
Now, this doesn’t mean that everything that you tell has to be told in a flat, matter of fact style. Fiction can use figures of speech that other mediums can’t. Instead of “Alice was angry” you can write “Alice’s blood boiled and a red haze filled her vision.”
Try doing that in a film.
So the next time someone complains that your story is “telling, not showing” simply explain that you are a storyteller, and telling stories is what you do. Don’t let someone talk you out of using the most powerful tool that fiction has.