Writing Tip of the Week (Show, Don’t Tell!)

Hey guys, it’s Day 2–Writing Tip of the week. Today I’m going to cover a tip that has greatly improved my writing–show, don’t tell.

You may be wondering what the heck I’m talking about. I know when I first got this advice, I was confused, too. What’s showing and telling? Well, here’s an example:

Telling–> I felt sad.

Showing–> My eyes brimmed with tears.

Picture Source: http://tvtropes.org

While “telling” isn’t always a bad thing (there are times when you will want to use it), too much can bore your reader. Now that I’ve been aware of “showing, not telling” for the past few years, I can definitely tell when a writer (including myself) is telling too much.

I’m going to post two examples below. Which is showing, which is telling, and which one sounds better?

#1–For a long moment, I couldn’t say a word. She was breaking up with me? My hand gripped the phone so tightly I was surprised it didn’t break. My heart felt like someone was sticking it with needles as tears burned beneath my eyelids. No, please don’t let this be happening. Why didn’t she want me anymore?

#2–For a long moment, I couldn’t say a word. She was breaking up with me? I held the phone tightly as I became overwhelmed with grief. I couldn’t believe this was happening. Why didn’t she want me anymore?

(The first example is showing. The second tells more. Which made you feel more sorry for the character?)

Picture source: ehow.com

Some Tips on Showing

*Describe what is going on rather than telling your reader what is going on. This is also called using sensory language. Describe using some (or all) of your five senses. Try putting yourself in your character’s shoes and think about how you would feel if you were them. It’s much more effective to describe what your character is feeling or experiencing rather than simple stating how they feel or what they are experiencing.

*Use dialogue. Instead of telling your reader what someone said, show them.

Telling--My mom told me how much she missed me.

Showing--“Rachel!” Mom cried, running to throw her arms around me. Her hug was so tight that it felt like a python was squeezing me. When she let go, she smiled at me, her eyes wide. “I missed you so much!”

*Use metaphors and similes to describe.

*Keep in mind that while it is important to show, too much can be overwhelming. Try to “show” just enough not to overwhelm the reader, yet don’t bore them too much “telling.” Find an equal balance.

Find out more about “Show, Don’t Tell”, here on Grammar Girl.

Don’t forget to check out my Halloween Writing Prompt! I’ll post mine tomorrow.

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