Chekhov said – supposedly – “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
It may seem odd to some new writers, I suppose, to be told over and over again to “show, not tell.” Writing is a verbal art, after all, unlike painting or music. But the show/tell conflict isn’t about the nature of the bits of data we’re organizing but about what we’re arranging them to convey. For writers of fiction, particularly, the goal, at least since the dawn of Modernism, has been to put the reader in the story, to not only know what happens but whenever possible to know what is was like to be there when it happened. What did it smell like, how did it feel, what sounds assaulted the ear? It seems to many of us that the reader is thus more powerfully engaged in the story (the operant word being “in”).
[your mileage may vary – please feel free to disagree /elaborate/quibble in comments below]
[more to come]