A problem I have with this aphorism is this: Show doesn’t have the strength it should to connote what its supposed to here. So what’s it supposed to mean? Show means that you present your story in such a way that the reader not only can see, but is also drawn in, and experiences your story as if he or she was there. Your story becomes a visceral experience, one in which the reader has real feelings.
For example, I had one of the characters die in my book, Anthem I. I introduced him in the first chapter and had him die in the second. I needed the character to set the tone of the story and to help explain how the main character came to know so much. But, after that, he would hinder the story, not help it.
So, I had him die of a mysterious illness.
One of my readers that I know personally saw me at her place of business. She was riding a golf cart some 100 yards away. When she saw me, she turned the cart and came straight for me. I stopped and waited knowing that she was reading my books. I hoped she would share a comment.
When she was close enough to be heard, she said, “I’m mad at you.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because you killed James McCartney. I liked him. Why did you have to kill him?” she asked as she hit me on my shoulder. I think her action indicated how much she was involved in the story.
That is what it means to ‘show.’ Maybe the aphorism should be, “See don’t say.” or maybe, “See, say, and do.”