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30 Days of Writing Tips – Day 14 – Don’t Tell, Show!

show instead of tellIs there a writer in the world who hasn’t been told “don’t tell, show!”

Way back when I first did a series like this, writer Kristen King, wrote a blog entry called Showing vs. Telling at her Inkthinker blog.

Using a shared lunch between Mike and Megan, Kristen makes it totally clear what the difference is between showing and telling.

Even more, by the time you read her examples you’ll not only understand the difference, but you’ll actually see why showing is so much more powerful than telling.

Sure, there are times when telling makes more sense, but not as often as you might think. Make an effort to turn change as much of your writing as you can from telling to showing.

How do you double check yourself to make sure you’re showing as often as possible?

What’s your favorite freelance writing tip?

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{ 6 comments… add one }
  • I did this in my book. I have a scene where one of the main characters, a bank robber, is mulling over previous events, and I put in a paragraph about how he beat up his money launderer. It was kind of dull, so I took the paragraph out and went back and wrote an entire new scene where he actually does it. So it went from something like this:

    He rubbed his knuckles, still sore from his encounter with Barbieri. The bank [had given all his cash to the exiled henchman] hadn’t known Conroy was out, but he should have checked.

    To something more like this:

    “Your money? Yeah, I gave it to your man a couple of days ago.”
    “You know, the skinny guy.” Barbieri looked nervous. “He picked it up. All of it. Hey, you said he was your guy.”
    He could hardly breathe. All that money, gone.

    MUCH much better. And it solved a huge problem with what happens later!

  • I do more telling when I’m doing copy writing, but showing is still important. Business writers need to give facts and statistics, but we also need to make an emotional connection w/the reader–that’s where showing can come in. Humor can be important, too–and showing can really help there.
    Freya Shipley recently posted..How to be a Better Talker- Six Strategies for Writers Part OneMy Profile

  • The struggle of when to tell, when to show, and when to leave it alone is a tough one. The tone of the story may be the key. At least it’s a consideration.

    In one case it might be a appropriate to write, “It was snowing.”

    In another story, the information might be conveyed in another way, “Tiny, crystallized flecks of precipitation continued to fall from the sky, for hours on end.”

    Or in another case, “The snow fell gently, muffling the sounds of the world. The quiet gave me a sense of being warm and cozy, despite the freezing night air.”

    How you show the scene depends on what the scene itself needs to convey. Because the condition of the physical world isn’t the only information that needs to be shared with the reader. The feelings and motivations of the characters matter, too.

  • Thanks for linking to my article, Anne. One of these days, I will pick that awful novel back up and finish it. 🙂

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