Show and Tell


by Sabine Berlin

The other day I was sitting in a critique session as the words show, don’t tell  went off like sirens about my latest submission. This wasn’t the first time I’d heard those words, nor—I’m certain—will it be the last. But they did get me thinking. If I showed as much as everyone there that day wanted me to, my first chapter could have been an entire novella on its own. So what was I supposed to show? Learning to show isn’t just about the HOW of it; you also need to know WHEN to show and when to tell.

But before you can figure that  out, you have to know how to differentiate between the two. Here’s one of the best definitions I’ve heard on the subject: showing  lets the reader infer what is happening by becoming one with the scene, whereas telling  gives the reader the facts without any unnecessary images.

So how do you show, and how do you tell?

Showing Off

Showing is a way of writing your story so that the reader falls into your book and becomes immersed in your character, setting, and story. The most important place to show in your writing is when an event or scene is actually moving the story forward. If an item is critical to the story, the reader must see it, feel it, live it. You also want to show items that will emotionally stimulate your reader. The important thing when showing is to remember that showing doesn’t always involve more words (although one of the simplest ways to show is by adding description). Here are five tips to take your showing to the next level. [Read more…]