The two books shown above helped me tremendously in understanding “show, don’t tell”. They are easy to read, not expensive, and give detailed explanations about what “telling” prose is versus “showing” prose.
Janice Hardy’s book is the longer of the two, and the one I read first. Author and agent Tess Emily Hall recommended it. Ms. Hard cover many topics that come under “telling” prose — point of view (POV), narrative distance, backstory, info dump, and more.
What I found most helpful were lists of words that usually indicate a writer is engaging in “telling”. An appendix conveniently gathers all these word together.
Her chapter “Things That Affect Telling” takes the same paragraph and rewrites it in “showing” prose from first-person POV, third-person single POV, and third-person omniscient POV. She dissects the differences in the writing styles, and that kind of examination is what I really needed.
Sharyn Kopf, an author and freelance editor who is working on my novel, recommended this book. It covers a lot of the same ground as Understanding but includes worksheets at the end of each chapter with sample answers.
I found the chapter “Write Lively, Linear Prose” to be the most helpful. Sometimes, because writers know how all the action is going to end, they write it in the wrong order.
An example from Rivet:
“The hot, stuffy air caused my head to spin.”
If I was writing in deep POV, showing, not telling, I would describe first the character noticing something wrong with his head, then have the character pinpoint the cause. I am paying close attention to the order of my action, so I don’t put the cart before the horse.
What sources have you found that teach “show, don’t tell”?