Show, Don’t Tell

Hey Lovelies,

I want to talk about showing and not telling while you write. There’s a big difference between these two ways of writing. One is going to be more engaging and entertaining and the other… not so much. You’re going to want to leave a bit of your story to the readers imagination.

I find a lot of the time – even in my own writing – I will start to tell the reader what the environment my characters are in. I will say that the vase is full of flowers on the end table in the living room and that the living room is right beside the kitchen. When I go back and edit that particular scene it is boring and awkward. What I should have done was have my character stop by the vase and smell the flowers in it and then walk into the kitchen to grab something to show my readers the layout of the room and what is in that room.

It’s not just me that does this either. Published writers do this as well. Danielle Steel and Nora Roberts do this a lot – especially when they are describing scenery or a room. I don’t know about the rest of you, but when they are describing something, and it’s just paragraphs long, I tend to skip over what was written there. It’s boring to read. Nothing is happening that furthers the plot.

I fnd the same thing happens when authors describe their characters. A lot of the time it will read something like this:

“The characters eyes were a starling blue. The character tall but very slim.  The character had brown hair, a wide mouth and a big nose.”

This Tumblr post sums up my feelings on this perfectly:

ok but reader have u ever consider that it's fun to describe the characters eye color in detail for the writer, no? ok

Give me something else in the description that not only tells me what they look like but how they feel about themselves or reveal some sort of their personality or what they’ve been through. It makes the character more interesting and personable to the writer.

I find that this phenomenon that pervades writing even invades descriptions of feelings as well. Here’s another example that displays showing versus telling:

Showing vs. Telling Writing Anchor Chart! This blog post also contains a FREE Show Don't Tell Bingo game!

Showing instead of telling happens in a lot of different ways within writing. As a writer just be conscious of what your putting onto paper or typing onto your computer. In the editing process make sure you watch for these kinds of things. I find that getting bored means that you’re not showing what is happening. Another way s just to incorporate action and movement into your scene – whether that is making your character interact with objects or change facial expressions/posture or if you need to describe them a bit differently.

Until next week!



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Danielle Adams

Danielle Adams

Danielle Adams is a writer and editor for a local marketing agency. She has formerly worked as a writer for the Investing News Network and as an editor for Whetstone, a bi-annually published literary magazine. Aside from writing, Danielle has an unabiding love for all marine life and the outdoors. She loves taking long hikes with her husband and cooking delicious meals in the kitchen.


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