Show, don't tell

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Show, don't tell is a type of writing technique used by authors. Instead of explaining a story, as in a summary, a writer makes the reader feel what is happening. It creates a picture of something in the reader's mind.[1] When the reader gets a clear mental picture the story becomes more interesting. The technique is used in both fiction and non-fiction writing.[2]

Examples of show, don't tell[change | change source]

  • Telling: "The room was perfect. She saw it and was immediately transported back to her childhood because it had all the elements she remembered."[3]
  • Showing: "She threw open the wide oak door and stepped into a past from twenty years ago. The bedroom she remembered, down to the last detail. Pink candy-striped walls with white trim. A thick white shag carpet, two plush maroon velvet chairs flanking a silent fireplace."[3]

In the first example, the author is telling what the character feels. In the second example, the author is allowing the reader to picture what the character was experiencing when she opened the door.[3]

Show and tell[change | change source]

Good writing may involve both showing and telling.[4] A scene shows the reader what is happening. It allows the reader to experience the action and emotions of the persons in the story.[4] A summary is often used between scenes to connect them together to create a story.[4] Another use of summaries is in places where a part of the story needs to be brief.[1] Showing takes more words than telling. Less important parts of a story are sometimes mentioned very briefly.[1]

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 R. Michael Burns. "Creative Writing 101: Show vs. Tell". Colorado Springs Fiction Writers Group. http://www.wright.edu/~david.wilson/eng3830/creativewriting101.pdf. Retrieved 4 February 2016.
  2. Dawn Copeman. "How to "Show Don't Tell"". Writingworld.com. http://www.writing-world.com/grammar/dawn02.shtml. Retrieved 4 February 2016.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Shirley Jump. "Show Not Tell: What the Heck is That Anyway?". http://www.foremostpress.com/authors/articles/show_not_tell.html. Retrieved 4 February 2016.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Laurie Alberts, Showing & Telling: learn how to show & when to tell for powerful & balanced writing (Cincinnati: F+W Media, 2010), pp. 1–2