Show Don’t Tell | FineArtViews

I recall the climax of the Harry Potter series. The entire final book builds up to the Battle of Hogwarts. Although, by that point, Harry has accepted that he must face Voldemort, he dreads it. He also knows, that to save everyone he loves, he must allow Voldemort to murder him.

As a master writer, J.K. Rowling didn’t simply tell us that “Harry was afraid, but he summoned the courage and bravely faced Voldemort. Voldemort then killed him.” Even though that is, essentially, what happened. But saying it that way is boring.

Instead, she showed us a riveting series of scenes and dialogue that intricately wove together to tell a story that conveyed the same essential facts.

Think about these scenes from the book:

Harry alone in the forest, pondering if he can go through with it, tears streaming down his face

Realizing that his impending death is the solution to the golden snitch riddle, “I open at the close.” Shown to us when he kisses the golden snitch, which opens, and reveals the spirits of his deceased family members.

Asking the spirits of his family if death hurts.

Pausing at the edge of Voldemort’s encampment, watching with his “heart throwing itself against his ribs as though determined to escape.”

While facing Voldemort, Harry makes “no attempt to pull his wand.”

See? Not boring.

Moving on, let’s suppose, instead of writing a book, we wanted to tell this story in a different way. Let’s pretend that we want to tell it, over time, with short images, videos, and text.

Pretend that you have to retell this story as a serial comic strip. And in this serial comic book, you are only allowed to publish one or two frames per day. And for each of those frames, you only have a few moments of your audience’s attention. What would that look like?

Perhaps an image of Harry crying in the forest. A short video of Harry kissing the golden snitch…and it opening to reveal his family. A black and white photo of Harry with the quote, “Does death hurt?” And so on.

What I’m describing is the proper way to show Harry’s story through Instagram and Facebook.

Telling us a story is boring, showing us one is riveting. Show, don’t tell your story.

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