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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Show, Don't Tell

from Victoria Black


For any authors out there, you've all heard the mantra "Show, Don't Tell".

I bought a good little book from Amazon the other day for only 99 cents, called Show or Tell by James Thayer. It's only short, but there's quite a lot of good advice in it. Here's some things I found useful.


In it, he says that as authors, we need to present the evidence and let the reader draw his own conclusion.


Telling is a lecture e.g. Stacey was warm. Whereas showing would be: Stacey fanned herself with her hand.

Show characters' reactions, don't tell e.g. Tell - She looked concerned. Show - "What's wrong?"

The context will make your showing accurate. e.g. John smiled.

You can make a description show two things e.g. what he is wearing and that he is poor.

When describing a face, tell is okay e.g. She was lovely. But showing adds more e.g. Men turned to look at her.

It's not necessary to show all the time - when a lot of information must be conveyed quickly e.g. He had a gun in his holster, a knife strapped to his thigh and a grenade on his belt. Also, back story can be told, but keep it short.

The key to showing is the question - IS THERE EVIDENCE?

James Thayer said that a summary of Show, Don't Tell is:

His arm itched. But is there evidence? He scratched his arm.

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