Navigate on over to this brilliant essay by Sonya Huber about the dangers of following the “show, don’t tell” advice when writing nonfiction.
The mantra has its place — writing teachers have said it to me, and in turn as a writing teacher, I’ve said it to students. But like Sonya, for too long the mantra stifled me. I was confused. When do I show? When do I tell? Am I telling too much and not showing enough? Can I trust the authority in my telling? These are good questions to ask ourselves, but AFTER a draft has been written. I’d be looking at a blank page and stress out over the questions.
Determine your purpose. Are you out to craft highly cinematic stories that would translate well to a screen? Is the world you’re writing about highly physical? Or is it quieter? Does the action happen in your head, in your thoughts?
Also, read. Read your favorite memoirists and essayists. They will guide you.