You hear it all the time in fiction writing courses, and you can read about it in books on writing and on blog posts online. Show, don’t tell.
I can be kind of dense sometimes but I have to say that that often left me scratching my head. Huh? Show? Don’t tell? Whatcha talkin’ about?
But I get it now–I think!
I think a couple of examples are the best way to show you want I mean.
The boy walked slowly across the street to his house. He knew he was in trouble.
He was short for his age and looked even smaller in his older brother’s hand-me-down blue jeans rolled up at the legs so he wouldn’t trip. He shoved his hands into the tattered pockets and trudged across the narrow street. With hunched shoulders, he walked into the house and braced himself for the whipping his father would surely give him.
She was an old woman. She looked him in the eye and said thank you.
Her wrinkled skin had been damaged by the sun over her many years on this earth. She brushed a long strand of grey hair from her forehead and tried to adjust her stooped frame to look him in the eye. “Thank you,” she said, her voice barely audible.
Give details. Be specific. Paint a picture with your words. Avoid adverbs. (They usually end with “ly” if you’re confused about which ones are the adverbs!) Close in the gaps so that the reader knows exactly what you’re talking about and can picture it!
Do you see the difference? Do you have any other suggestions to help writers show and not tell? Tell us in the comments.
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