Show don't Tell. But what does it mean?

 
Show versus Tell Writing
  Alike yourself I've often wondered what it was exactly that people meant by 'Show don't tell' when it refers to writing stories. In the writing world it's a commonly used phrase but what does it mean? The basic answer is: reader immersion. One of the best ways to immerse your reader into your writing is by creating vivid imagery that will draw them further into your world of imagination.

When a writer sits down to tell their story you want to immerse your reader in it as much as possible. Ask yourself this: "Does my writing show what's happening?" Below are a few writing examples to help you visualize what is meant by this question.


Example 1:

Telling -  She was angry.

Note: This is unambiguous, but not at all evocative — she may feel angry, but the reader isn’t likely to. Think about what you can do to create a distinct picture in the reader’s mind about how to evoke the emotion of anger.

Showing - The rage took over. All-overwhelming. She reached back and threw a punch at her editor, threw it as hard as she could, and it caught him straight in the jaw, and he fell from the force of the blow,

Example 2:

Telling -  The house looked old.

Note: This leaves readers wondering what 'old' looks like as far as the writer is concerned.

Showing - The house slouched in a yard choked with weeds, its paint faded and flaking, the lace curtains in its windows yellowed with age.

Example 3:

Telling -  Mary wrote her name messily on the line.

Showing - Mary scribbled her name on the line.

Note: Verbs should carry the weight of the description. The verb 'scribbled' contains the implication of 'messily' and saves you from needing an awkward adverb to create a vivid image.
Writing Show Don't Tell Examples

Vivid imagery is the key

     Vivid writing grabs attention and draws them into your story. Show your readers the action you create as this is a vital aspect of storytelling. Avoid the pitfalls of 'telling' rather than 'showing' by remembering these points:

• Use strong, specific verbs, and avoid overusing adverbs.

• Provoke emotion through character reactions and vivid writing, don’t simply tell readers how to feel.

• Use well-placed details to bring scenes to life.

• Use expressive dialogue to show characters’ emotions and attitudes.

Keep these in mind. Don't be afraid to write powerful and compelling words. Once you have this down pat the readers will keep coming back for more.


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