Okay, so I saw this journal that contained a number of tips, including a detailed section on 'show don't tell,' and I had an epiphany. There was an 'Oh' and everything so you know it's legit.
For a while now I have wondered why amateur writers write the most mind-numbingly long descriptions that I could not care about even a little (yes, my attention span is short, why'd you think I put in so many GIFs? but anyway, I'm a bit atypical there). I mean, I don't want the 'flames of burning searing pain of the aching broken heart' all up in my grill. I'd genuinely prefer a 'he hated her after the break up.' That's all I need to know about that? Good. Move on.
And that's the 'oh' moment: when people tell you to show not tell, they always fail to mention 'pacing.'
Look, there are times when it's best to convey a mood. His trembling fingers reach for the full glass, her voice an angry buzz in the back of his mind--I'd consider that a reasonable establishing shot. But if you're halfway through a paragraph and he's having a conversation with the bartender and that's
the real focus, could you just say that he's an ex-alcoholic? Do I need the ten hour backstory? Is this the right place to stick it?
Of course, part of this is reflective of modern trends in writing. Much as I love Vanity Fair
there are whole swathes I'd love to machete away (not as many as in Pride and Prejudice
, but to be honest it'd be faster to just rip out the few pages I actually liked). And I had the worst Poe-boner when I was a kid, but when I read contemporary works written in that style--my old stuff included--I just want to slap the author and go 'are you being paid by the word? ARE YOU SURE?' (Feel free to challenge me by supplying some heavily descriptive horror. Yeees. This would be best.)
But most of it goes back to pacing. The easiest example of this might be the action scene. Action scenes are a tell-fest. Punches are thrown. Breath is expelled. There's no room for shit like...there was supposed to be an example from yours truly here. I can't do this, actually, because I had a second smaller epiphany and that is that this 'show, don't tell' rule tends to apply to emotional descriptions.
Please tell (or show, if you must) me you don't break halfway through an action scene to talk about everyone's feelers. What kind of awful pacing would that be?
Okay, okay. It could be a good idea, especially if your protag's busy running away from the way cooler antagonist and you need the pace to slow down. But what if what you need is speed? Bam bam bam I ain't got no time for this feelings bullshit?
He's mad! He's really pissed off now! He's so good at making friends! (Wait, that's Naruto....) Open handed filial piety attack! Action scenes are fast and short and simple, because that's a fight.
Emotions are complicated, and there are a lot of ways to depict them.
So anyway. Before you start devoting your life to showing not telling and end up with an audience of three very determined people, read over the whole goddamn thing and make sure that each scene takes as long as it should.