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A peek at my fantasy office. No, really! There's a delightful misconception in the literary world, a near-legendary tale that authors are fueled purely by coffee—cup after cup of that intoxicating brew, our muse for every page turned and every tale spun. But here's a little secret from my corner of the fantasy realm: while most authors are downing espressos and lattes, I'm sipping on apple cider. Yes, you read that right. Sparkling apple juice is my potion of choice, the golden elixir that fuels my tales of enchanting worlds and passionate shifters.

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

Show versus Tell Writing

How to Show, Not Tell in Your Writing Prose

If you are a new writer who wants to improve your writing prose, you might have heard of the advice "show, don't tell". But what does it mean and how can you apply it to your own work?

Show, don't tell is a writing technique that helps you create vivid and engaging scenes by using sensory details and actions rather than exposition. It allows your readers to experience the story through your characters' eyes, feelings, thoughts, and reactions.

Showing, not telling, makes your writing more immersive, emotional, and memorable. It also helps you avoid boring or clichéd descriptions that might lose your readers' interest.

But how do you show, not tell? Here are some examples that illustrate the difference between showing and telling in writing prose.

A brunette woman with black glasses looking into they sky
What kind of emotion is this author showing?

Example 1: Emotions

Telling: She was angry at him for lying to her.

Showing: She clenched her fists and gritted her teeth as she glared at him. "How could you lie to me?" she spat.

The telling sentence simply states her emotion, while the showing sentence demonstrates it through her body language, facial expression, tone of voice, and dialogue. The showing sentence also reveals more about her personality and relationship with him.

A large river runs through a dense forest filled with fantasy buildings
Fantasy Land set in the Old World

Example 2: Setting

Telling: It was a cold and rainy night.

Showing: The wind howled and whipped the rain against the windows. He shivered as he pulled his coat tighter around him.

The telling sentence gives a generic description of the weather, while the showing sentence creates a more vivid picture of the scene by using sound effects, imagery, and movement. The showing sentence also implies how he feels about the weather.

A beautiful woman cosplays as a fairy angel with teal hair, angel wings, and a crown of flowers
What kind of character is this to you? Describe her

Example 3: Characterization

Telling: He was a generous and kind person.

Showing: He always volunteered at the local soup kitchen every weekend. He never hesitated to help anyone in need, even if it meant giving up his own comfort or money.

The telling sentence summarizes his traits with adjectives, while the showing sentence illustrates them with specific examples of his actions and choices. The showing sentence also shows his values and motivations.

Tips for Showing, Not Telling

- Use sensory details to describe what your characters see, hear,  smell,  taste,  touch,  feel,  think,  say,
 do,  etc.

- Use dialogue to reveal your characters' personalities,  emotions,  relationships,  conflicts,  goals,  etc.

- Use strong verbs  instead of weak ones  (e.g., sprinted vs ran),  adverbs  (e.g., angrily vs with anger),
 or passive voice  (e.g., he was hit by a car vs a car hit him).

- Use figurative language  such as metaphors,  similes,  personification,  etc.  to create vivid images or comparisons  in your readers' minds.

- Use details that are relevant  to your story or theme and avoid unnecessary or irrelevant ones that might distract or confuse your readers.

- Balance showing with telling by using both techniques appropriately depending on the purpose
 or context of each scene or paragraph.

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.

Showing vs Telling is one of the most important skills for any writer who wants to craft compelling stories that capture their readers' attention and imagination. By practicing this technique regularly , you will be able to improve your writing prose significantly . Happy writing!