My husband and I recently started watching the first season of Dollhouse, Joss Whedon's new series. For those of you who don't know who Joss Whedon is, you may go back under your rocks now. When the series started last year, neither of us were too interested in the concept: a woman who works for an agency that wipes her memories clean and imprints on her any personality that is requested by the client. She can be an assassin, a negotiator, a thief—whatever. Even though it starred the fabulous Eliza Dushku (who played Faith in Buffy the Vampire Slayer), I never tuned in because the idea of watching what I thought would be essentially a different main character every week just didn't appeal.

I should have known Joss Whedon would do a better job than that. My bad.

Episode seven of Dollhouse prompted this blog entry. In it, there was a perfect example of showing vs. telling. Up to this point, we've only seen bits and pieces about how Echo (Eliza Dushku) came to be a "doll". In episode seven ("Echoes"), a little more of the picture is filled in. (For those of you who haven't seen the series and might rent it, stop reading now.)

Echo is drawn from an engagement to a college where an experimental drug has been released into the student populace. The drug plays with the brain's memory centre, so the actives are supposed to be immune from it. However, it's discovered that the drug will eventually break through the memory blocks the Dollhouse puts in place, and the actives will revert back to a traumatic memory.

Echo flashes back to the events that led her to become a doll, events that happened in one of the college's labs. She and her boyfriend broke in, hoping to videotape animal abuse, but they discovered much more than that—the company affiliated with the college was also doing human experiments (for what, we're not sure yet). But she and her boyfriend got caught, her boyfriend got shot, and, as far as we see, he died in her arms on the lawn of the school.

As Echo is bombarded with these memories, Joss Whedon could have had her expound on her feelings, telling us that this was why she acquiesced to having her memory erased. But he didn't. He let the images from her memories stand without any explanation or dialogue from Echo, which made them all the more powerful. He trusted his viewers to get it.

As writers, we have to do the same thing: show what we mean, and trust our readers to get it.