Last Sunday, Downton Abbey writers failed to achieve show, don’t tell. (Spoiler alert.)
In fiction, great writing uses this device. A simple example is instead of, “She was angry,” we should write, “Her fists clenched.”
We feel the emotion as each character acts and reacts in ways true to their nature. This applies to writing and even to Downton Abbey.
This week, Edith–the meek sister–got terrible news. She’d been waiting for a year to hear something, anything, about her lost lover. And so had we. But when the news came to Downton, viewers were denied the scene. Instead, her father later told his wife and us what happened.
We did not see Edith wither when it was confirmed he died. Worse, we did not see her sit forward, her face brightening, when she is told she inherits his publishing business. Edith was given what many women were denied for years, and what the family assumed she never had. Power.
Consequently, the writers denied Edith’s power to persuade us, too. So when we next see Edith using her newfound strength, it feels unbelievable. False. Had we seen it, we would have been right there with her.
For further examples of show, don’t tell, check out this great description at Grammar Girl’s Down and Dirty Tips.