(I am just going to throw it out there that I just decided to forgo posting this summer. It was crazy. Anyway, I’m alive now so I will hopefully start posting more.)
In the world of writing, show vs. tell is one of the most talked about, most stressful parts of it. The definition is simple: telling tells the readers, showing shows the readers. So instead of saying, “He was cold”, the better way to show it would be, “He shivered and reached for his jacket.”
When I first started writing, I can guarantee that I didn’t know that definition. My editor still has to leave a note on a scene and say, “Uh, Brianna, rewrite that.” Which, after a little grumbling, I will do, because a book filled with showing scenes is a thousand times better than telling. It opens up the characters in a way that nothing else can do. It engages readers, and it lets them into the minds and hearts of the people they’re reading about.
And to make it more difficult, there is a time and place for telling. (Still figuring that one out, tbh.) You’re not going to show the entire book. Sometimes you’ll ‘tell’ when the character is going somewhere, or if there’s a big lapse of time. As the saying goes, there are no rules in writing. So people get to do whatever they want until their editor or agent tells them no.
A few weeks ago at church, the sermon was asking the question of why God would ever send Jesus down here, as a measly human. Obviously, the biggest one is to die for our sins, which is reason enough alone. But he could’ve done that as a mighty king, swooped down here, did what he needed to do, and went right back up to heaven.
Instead, he was born in a manger, surrounded by stinky animals. To a carpenter. Why?
To show us what God is like.
The Old Testament does some showing, but it mostly tells us about God. How he is just, forgiving, etc. Look at Psalms. Most of it is telling. We still get to find out what he’s like, but through the Gospels, God shows us, through Jesus, what he is like.
Writers are encouraged to show because that’s what the readers want, even if they don’t know exactly what that means.
Philip said to him, “Lord show us the Father and it is enough for us.” ~ John 14:8
When Jesus walked the Earth, he showed us what the Old Testament told us.
How he is forgiving:
Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and sin no more.” ~ John 8:10-11
How he heals (in pretty crazy ways):
Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Soloam. So he went and washed and came back seeing.” ~ John 9:7
He showed us through his parables:
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” ~ Luke 15:20
There are lot of amazing writers in the world, but God is the greatest storyteller. He understood better than anyone the craziness of show vs. tell. He knew that we wanted to get into the heart and soul of the One who created us, and he did that by sending his only son down here to this world. He didn’t have to do that. We certainly didn’t deserve it.
But God is a forgiving God, and one who wants to be in relationship with all of us. The best writers have people buying their books a year in advance because of their ability to make those readers feel. They remember how much they sobbed and laughed and smiled as they read. And God understood that; he was the one who wired us. We connect best with a story that lets us see in, so that’s exactly what he did.
“Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me? The words I say to you, I do not speak on my own. Instead, it is the Father dwelling in Me, performing His works.” ~ John 14:10
Through Jesus, God showed us himself. He hunts down the lost. Forgiveness. Heals. Feels emotion.
And he loves every single one of us.