An aspiring writer asked me if I could jot down examples or tell her more about “Show Don’t Tell”
I thought I would put some things here to help her to learn the process. Lord knows I have to practice it quite a bit in my own writing. According to Wikipedia “Show, don’t tell is an admonition to fiction writers to write in a manner that allows the reader to experience the story through a character’s action, words, thoughts, senses, and feelings rather than through the narrator’s exposition, summarization, and description.”
So don’t just tell me your mother is an invalid and sick in a nursing home, show me. Describe it so it makes the reader “feel.” So, how do you get the reader to feel? I like Tara K Harper’s article on the subject- Show, Don’t Tell, the Story.
In Daily WritingTips Erin gives 4 tips on how to show not tell, including 1. Dialogue, 2. Sensory language 3. Be descriptive 4. Be specific, not vague. Be sure to check out the details in this article.
If you love Grammar Girl, and who does not love Grammar Girl, you can hear Mignon Fogarty talks about Show, Don’t tell. So check out the October 2010 podcast.
Of course “showing” often takes more words, and a lot more time. Frankly I think I have written non-fiction for so long that putting my hands to the typewriter “telling” comes much easier than showing. Which brings up a point. Is Showing only important in Fiction? Many believe a certain amount of showing is good in nonfiction as well. In this article 5 Non-Fiction book Writing Mistakes and Solutions Judy Cullins offers some suggestions for nonfiction writers.
Now on to writing and rewriting to show not tell.