The other day, in the library, during recess, one of my friends shoved a book into my hands and said, "I recommend this book." Yes, that's exactly what she said.
I looked at the book in my hands. I was already scared. It was one of those young adult books that are black with blue or red or purple letters and have something to do with vampires or werewolves or something like that.
But, I believe in judging a book by what's inside it, not its cover. So, I opened it up to the first page. I can't remember it exactly, but I think it went something like this.
"I walked down the street. Then I walked up a hill. I stood there and waited a while. The boy and his dog were not there. This made me mad."
I shoved it back on the shelf. I was already falling asleep. Not only was the prose slightly clumsy, but it didn't show me a thing. I couldn't see the world. I couldn't connect with the character. Every word was telling. Even when something was happening. And it was BORING! I didn't care a bit.
However, there's another side to this.
I keep sneaking my mom's first draft of the book she's writing right now. It's really awesome. But if I didn't hear her talking about it all the time, I would be really confused. There's a whole lot of action happening, but nobody stops to explain to the main character what in the world is going on. I'm not lost. But that's because I already understand how the world works. Anyone who hasn't spent the last 15 years listening to my mom talk about the Society of Peregrines would probably be completely lost.
In Japanese, we had to do a project where we learned a Japanese dance and taught the class how to do it. Before the first group started, the teacher got up and said something important.
He told us that almost everyone in his first class failed the project because the first thing they did was talk for five minutes about the origin of the dance. Then he explained what he wanted. He said we needed to start by getting the class engaged. Asking them to stand up and do the first motion. Then we could stick facts in here and there while we taught the dance.
This can totally be used in writing. It's important to start off a story with action, not a lengthy explanation. Then, you have to keep showing, but at the same time, tell the reader enough that they understand what's going on. So the audience is neither bored nor confused.
So, how do you keep your showing and telling balanced?