All Show, No Tell – The Audio/Visual Experience
One of the greatest lessons writers can gain by watching television series (and movies) is the importance of action and dialogue. In todayâ€™s world, we expect richer, active, even sensual experiences. We fill our entertainment hours with games, movies, soap operas, drama, theatre, ballet, situational comedy and reality television. Tangible, engaging experience involves interactions with all of our senses.
Thankfully, written media offers a wonderful opportunity to reach readers on a level of expression that goes far and beyond other forms. With words we can cause readers to see, feel, taste, smell and hear. The only way to truly allow a reader to experience a story is to show it, rather than tell it.
The Stargate Series, thanks to its audio/visual medium, is ALL SHOW AND NO TELL. Viewers watch the characters through every interaction, through every scene. We never experience internal monologue or exposition. Every vital element must be expressed to viewers through action and dialogue. The writers and producers of the Stargate SG1 series have mastered the subtlety needed to get the vital facts to viewers. They cut the chaff and engage viewers in this rich, science fiction environment.
ACTION â€“ Something is ALWAYS happening.
In fiction we can resort to other forms of narration to tell the story but the most engaging, interesting and enriching is to â€˜showâ€™ the story through a series of SCENES. (Note: Fiction isn’t ‘all show’ and ‘no tell’ – read more but “show, don’t tell” is a vital writer tip – learn why.)
Every move your characters make, everything they see and experience, everything that happens to and around them is action. Whenever the SG1 step through the Stargate theyâ€™re taking action. What they do on the other side is action-packed.
Action isnâ€™t always about guns blazing and car chases. Simple things like dinner, work and even sex involve action. The important thing to remember is anything you show happening must move the story forward. Every scene should take the story toward its climax, its ending.
DIALOGUE â€“ Communication with purpose.
Getting characters to communicate is a significant action that offers writers a chance to use language between characters to share other important information. All dialogue should serve a purpose in your story. It could be character development, fact expression, or relationship based but it must move the story forward.
Television series are rich with elements that involve viewers. We reach into the stories, interacting on a cerebral level that generates interest in the characters and what happens to them. We see it happening, we hear it happening and the audio/visual cues pull us into the action. The exact same scene could be written in two different ways, â€˜showâ€™ or â€˜tellâ€™.
If you tell the story to someone it creates the distance of a second-hand account. As writers we want to close that gap as much as possible. Sometimes itâ€™s appropriate to give your readers distance but most of the time readers want to be fully engaged. Pull them in by showing them the action. Then they can use all their senses to experience a story, rather than just read about it.