It's important to recognize that what is Shown or what is considered Told often relates to what has preceded or succeeded that point in the narrative. Consequently, something is not automatically being Shown if it's in backstory (sic, flashback).
To explain this via an example, if whenever a particular character heard a loud noise he fell to the ground because he was the victim of Gulf War Syndrome as a result of his military experience in Iraq, this would be Telling the action. If on the other hand the author chose to show the character in a battle scene in Tikrit, then it would be Showing (at least related to that aspect of the overall scenario).
Yet this begs a question: In this instance would it be necessary to Show a graphic battle scene--since the reader already knows about the character's unusual behavior--or would it be more than adequate to Tell the reader via a short insert, still as backstory, that the individual had been in numerous fire fights on the streets of one of he worst hell zones in the entire war zone? In this example it would likely be better to Show the action via a battle scene, but, again, how the writer chooses to handle this should be dictated by what the reader has already learned about the character.
To the other element of your question, in my opinion there is no better way to transition material, should exposition be necessary to add body to a character or a scene, than via backstory. If utilized correctly, backstory is a perfect vehicle to flesh out story elements. And for this reason it shouldn't be eschewed, regardless of whether it's being used to Tell or Show a scene. But backstory must be deftly placed and generally used.
Let's see about that cup of coffee. I travel on business alot, gives me time to write...maybe we can meet at a Starbucks and talk sometime. Send me an e-mail here on authors.com with your e-mail address or a phone number and we can set up a time early in Feb.
Hi Stephen, great to have you as a "friend." Whenever you come up with an idea regarding a subject you would like to have addressed via an article on writing, please let me know. Also, If you'd like to receive my Free Newsletter every other Tuesday that I post on writing at a level to appeal to major royalty publishers, please visit my web site at http://www.theperfectwrite.com and scroll to the bottom of the page for the simple two-step sign up form. And, again, thanks for your support and interest in my material. Regards, Rob
P.S. I just noticed a word missing from the message I sent you on backstory. The final phrase in the last sentence should've read: and generally used sparingly. I must've cut "sparingly" when I pasted the comment from Notepad. Sorry, as this omission does indeed affect the meaning.
Hi Stephen, I checked and you are signed up, and you'll receive the next Newsletter this upcoming Tuesday. If I can make a suggestion, write a short scene like I used in the example in the blog post: two people talking to each other. I don't care whether you include interior monologue or not, I'll write it in each person's POV so you can see how POV would pertain to something you wrote and not me.
And just so you know, POV is one of the most difficult skill sets to master in all of writing. So get your narrative to me and I'll work on when I have a break. Regards, Rob
I don't know if this is what you have in mind,but here goes.
The dawn came slowly over the town of Santa Ana Tepititlan Jalisco Mexico, turning the wet black stones of the street to gold. Nineteen year old Jose Luis Mendoza,apprentice seller of drugs,and part time laboror for his alcoholic father forced his eyes open,and reached to embrace his wife Lupe. She was gone,and the baby was gone too. He drank stale beer from a can left on the floor. I hit her too hard he thought, looking at the early morning light passing through the thin curtain Lupe had hung. He knew Lupe was at her mother's small block house,his mother-in-law was examining Lupe's face under the light bulb hung from the kitchen ceiling. She was examining the bruse over Lupe's eye, her swollen lip,and her ribs where Jose had kicked her,causing his shoe to fly off.
Jose knew his mother-in-law prayed for the day she would throw dirt on his grave. He also knew Lupe and her mother would cry,argue,fight,and Lupe would return with the baby. Knowing this he finished the beer,and slept fully clothed...except for one missing shoe.
Second, what you wrote is entirely in Jose's POV, and perfect. In your scene, however, if you had told the reader what Lupe's mother-in-law's thought about Jose, thereby expressing her POV, there would an improper shift, since, again, the piece was written in Jose's POV. Here is a line that reflects an improper POV shift if it were incorporated in your short narrative: She was examining the bruise over Lupe's eye, wondering how much more her daughter-in-law was going to put up with from her son before she put him in the ground. In this instance, the mother-in-law could ask Lupe the question I just posed, but not think it. Make sense? Oratory is fine; thought isn't, if the POV of the scene is established via another character.
If a writer wishes to shift POV, sometimes, depending on the amount of exposition in the narrative, as little as a paragraph or two is adequate to serve as a buffer.
As I stated in the article, the problem with a POV shift is when it occurs in the same scene; and 1) it becomes difficult for the reader to determine who is speaking; or 2) another character's POV is interjected so the reader becomes confused as to whom or what the scene is written around. There can be other issues, but those are the primary concerns as I know them. Just keep in mind that when a shift is established, that entire scene should then be written around this "new" character's thoughts. Jumping back and forth in a scene never works, any more than expressing a half-dozen characters' POV's in a scene.
If you would like to read a novel in which there is no POV via a particular character in the entire narrative, since all the interior monologue is in an omniscient voice, read (or reread, now that you would be parsing POV issues), THE MALTESE FALCON.