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Show and (Not) Tell

Newer writers often struggle showing details about a character, or crucial backstory, without explaining it with overt dialogue. They fail at writing good "exposition."

While watching the first episode of The Shrink Next Door, I witnessed a wonderfully simple example of well done exposition. We meet Paul Rudd's character, who is flying through a garden party he's apparently hosting, quickly schmoozing with his guests as he glides past them. Then he runs into Lisa Rinna, who plays herself in the show. He gives his camera to a guy nearby to take a photo of him and Lisa (in a sort of celebrity-social-climbing way.) But the newly minted photographer doesn't do it quickly enough, and Paul Rudd gets frustrated, snatching the camera back from him, and searching for a more qualified replacement. He obviously needs to get this photo of him and Lisa, and it's all he cares about at that moment.

Poor writing would have Paul Rudd talking about how he's so insecure that he needs people to know he's friends with celebrities. Good writing is showing him prioritizing a photographic moment with her over any social graces.

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