The novel I'm writing is third-person limited POV in style. This means that the narration's coverage is limited to what the POV character can observe, think, feel, while others' thoughts, feelings, and out-of-sight actions are naturally not covered.
The dilemma is thus: Show don't tell as an adage is often trotted out as universally true, but of course, the occasional tell is necessary.
The reader in theory should be privy to the thoughts and motives of the POV character, and therefore there's always going to be enough information 'available' for the narration to theoretically say 'X felt sad'.
Of course, 'X felt sad' is an extreme example and I'd never consider using it, however, there are times and places where laying out certain feelings and motives could be useful, or the story would make no sense if they weren't laid out in a direct manner (for example, if I arbitrarily left out a POV character's logic for a certain plan just to artificially produce tension despite the fact the narration has the information, making it read like it's withholding information for the lulz).
My question is this: What general rules are there for a 'good' tell and 'bad' tell in limited third-person POVs? Are there any hard and fast rules? This is less a 'question that needs solving' as much as an opening of a discussion.
My ideas on the topic:
- If the feelings are ones the POV character is running away from, it's more likely it'll be downplayed in the narration.
- If you have to tell the audience a feeling, it could be you've insufficiently demonstrated it through a character's actions.
- Telling emotions directly is more acceptable if the character's experiences at that moment are largely internal, that is, their actions or ability to express emotion are limited yet there's a maelstrom within their head.
What ideas do you guys have on this topic?