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Show vs Tell

Just finished reading Robert Graves’ I, Claudius. What struck me through the book is how much of it is written as “Tell” (telling the reader what happened, as you would to a friend over the dinner table) and not “Show” (making the reader live the characters’ actions, by multiplying elements of description, dialogues, feelings and thoughts). These days, writers are asked to Show as much as possible, as “no one wants to read a synopsis.”

And yet: I, Claudius puts some flesh on Suetonius’ account of the lives of the twelve Cesars; but it remains at 90-95% Tell.

And it is considered one of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century.

Go figure…

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