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Monday, March 30, 2009

Lesson 16 - Show, Don't Tell


This is my favourite lesson. You will improve your writing by leaps and bounds if you can accomplish this - show and not tell. 'Telling' means to tell your reader directly what is happening and what a character is feeling. 'Showing' is more indirect. It engages your readers imagination and therefore requires their participation. Look at the examples below:

Example 1:

Telling - She was happy.

Showing - She was smiling broadly and her eyes were sparkling like two stars.

(Note that I did not use the word 'happy' when showing.)

Example 2:

Telling - They robbed him.

Showing - Pointing a knife at him, they asked for all his valuables. He handed them his wallet and watch and they ran away into the darkness.

(Note that I did not use the word 'rob' when showing.)

Example 3:

Telling - He couldn't be trusted.

Showing - I remember the time when I gave him some money to buy a birthday cake for our daughter, Angela. He ended up at the horse races and Angela did not have a cake that year.

(Note that I did not use the word 'trusted' when showing.)


The following examples are all 'telling'. Rewrite them so that they show and not tell:

1. He forgot to post the letter. (Avoid using the word 'forgot'.)

2. She was a really rebellious girl. (Avoid using the word 'rebellious.)

3. It was a hot day. (Avoid using the word 'hot'.)

4. The job was impossible to do. (Avoid using the word 'impossible'.)

5. He saw an accident on the way to school. (Avoid using the word 'accident'.)

Have fun! :)

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