Show, Don’t Tell

This seriously awesome “cheat sheet” popped up in my Facebook and Twitter feed the other day and it’s simply too good not to share. It originated from a website called Writers Write:

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2015/01/img_6212.png As writers, we’re often told how important it is to “show, don’t tell” with our words. The funny thing is, it can be easier to write “tell” rather than “show”, but it’s waaaay better to READ “show” than it is to read “tell”. And really, as someone who spends a lot of time reading, I kinda hate it when I read writing that does more telling than showing, because it almost makes me feel dumb, you know? It sends the message that the writer thinks that to get their story across then they have to describe everything to the point that there’s no room left for my imagination to enjoy the creativity of filling in any gaps for myself. It then becomes an uninspiring read and, if I manage to get through the entirety of it, it leaves me unsatisfied at the end. Buuuut… Like I said, it’s easy to slip into writing that way. Think about it! How much easier is it to write “He looked confused” than “He furrowed his brow”? … Admittedly, that was a super bad example since both are easy enough to write, but the point is that one is telling you straight out that he’s confused, and one is using body language which then activates your imagination to decide for yourself what the body language means. Does a furrowed brow mean he’s angry? Scared? Hurt? Puzzled? You don’t know without reading it in the context of the whole written moment. And that’s the beauty of “show, don’t tell” because it immerses you in whatever you’re reading. Your entire attention is captivated by what’s happening, by what you’re “seeing” as your mind plays out the sequence of events and creates a picture based on what is shown through the words. It’s what makes the reading experience beautiful. … All that said, sometimes it really does just make sense to write simple tells. I’m definitely guilty of using my fair share (including the example above of “He looked confused”)… Let’s just say I’m a work in progress! :-)

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72 thoughts on “Show, Don’t Tell

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