What ‘Showing’ Versus ‘Telling’ Looks Like

A big sin in storytelling is to “tell” rather than “show.” Screenwriting master Robert McKee calls this habit of using exposition, “furniture dusting.” Have you ever seen a play that starts with the “servants” coming out at the beginning to dust the furniture in the “parlor,” all the while talking about the master and mistress of the house and what’s been going on? This is intended to get the audience up to speed and share the back story. It’s downright lazy, says McKee. He’s right.

Sure, some “telling” is necessary. But, it should never be in replace of using other creative ways to show what you are committed to.

A good example of how to show off your commitments is through corporate social responsibility programs. For instance, take the Dyson company, known for their innovative vacuum cleaner technology. We recently bought a new Dyson vacuum cleaner. On the box we found a story of the James Dyson Foundation. It reads:

In schools and universities, the James Dyson Foundation North America encourages young people to realize their engineering potential. It could be prototyping new environmentally responsible designs, disassembling everyday applianaces or tackling fun, practical tasks. As well as inspiring tomorrow’s engineers, the foundation also supports medical and scientific research projects around the world.

What do you think they are dedicated to? Beyond just selling vacuum cleaners and parts, clearly they support innovation and engineering breakthroughs overall.

What stories do you have that show off your commitments?