The difference between ‘Show‘ and ‘Tell ‘is that ‘Show’ invokes from the reader a mental image of the scene/emotion. In contrast, ‘Tell’ is a statement of an action/emotion. The goal in your writing is to provoke a reaction in your readers, for them to feel the emotions your character is feeling. It sounds easy, but it is a difficult task. Once you get it, telling your story will flow. It’s probably the most challenging maxim to grasp, and it was for me, but once I did, I could not believe how connected I became to my writing. It was like a sensory awakening.
Read what you have written and circle every telling word :
Then write down specifics for each. Then circle every emotion word such as Sad, Happy, Angry, Excited, Giddy, Anxious, Terrified, Disgust, etc.. and look at how you can Show that emotion rather than Tell.
Below is an example from my blog, Eventide Love: Chapter titled Before:
I first wrote this paragraph:
‘I loved the sea and my early morning swims. In the beautiful blue sea, I felt at peace.’
This is a real example of tell not show. so I circled each word, tapped into my senses, and wrote this:
“At that time of day, the sea would seem to belong to me. I would revel in it, hearing the sounds of distant traffic muted against the notes of wind and water, and losing myself in the changing shades of blue, turquoise, deep green and grey until sometimes I thought I might dissolve too, lose my body.”
Which one do you think sets the scene in a more engaging way?
Circle, Circle, Circle, tap into your senses and rewrite those sentences.
Use the character’s five senses sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch: Take the reader to the scene through . …
1.Use strong verbs. …
2. Avoid adverbs. …
3. Be specific. …
4. Use dialogue. …
5. Focus on actions and reactions
Rather than Telling that your character is angry, Show it. You do this by describing his face flushing, his throat tightening, his voice rising, his slamming a fist on the table. When you Show, you don’t have to Tell.
Tired? He can yawn, groan, stretch. His eyes can look puffy. His shoulders could slump. Another character might say, “Didn’t you sleep last night? You look shot.” When you Show rather than Tell, you make the reader part of the experience. Rather than having everything simply imparted to him, he sees it in his mind and comes to the conclusions you want.
“Show, Don’t Tell,” in essence, encourages writers to tell stories via the use of immersive thoughts, actions, and descriptions most often filtered through the lens of a point-of-view character.
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