One piece of writing advice gets held up as more sacred than any other: Show, don't tell. But this maxim can ruin your story-telling, if you treat it like a law. Here are five situations where telling is actually better.Read the whole thing. "Bludgeon" -- that's the key word in Anders' analysis, isn't it? I remember reading James Joyce's Ulysses in college, the brick-like Gabler edition of the text to one side, a critical study to the other and copious notes scribbled during a lecture in front of me. I knew Joyce was doing something intricate and amazing with the text. I also knew it made my head hurt. Perhaps the literary greats can get away with pounding readers with their compositional prowess. But I'm not sure we genre folks can. Anders' piece reminds me that authorial brilliance shouldn't necessarily beat aside readerly enjoyment.
Like most rules of thumb, "Show don't tell" is excellent advice most of the time — but people often apply it too broadly, or in situations where it hurts more than it helps. You have to be aware of the spirit, as well as the letter, of this particular law. Writers have a tendency to lecture readers -- and this goes double for science fiction and fantasy writers, who have a lot of worldbuildy stuff to get out of the way. It's definitely never a good idea to bludgeon your readers with information.
(Picture: CC 2008 by PhotoJonny)