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B&A: How do I "show" more, because I do enough of "telling"?

In almost every critique I get of the same story, I am told that I do "an awful lot of 'telling', but not showing". As pathetic as it sounds, I've never learned what this means. What does it mean that I tell a lot, but don't show? And also, how do I "show" more?


All I've ever learned is to tell in a story... to me, "show" means physically, and I don't know how to do that with a story.

3 Answers

  • Anonymous
    10 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    Don't use words that actually... well... TELL the emotion. Never say "She was angry" or "He was swamped in depression." Say what someone would do if they were pissed off 'cause their dog took a dump on the floor.

    Example: "Her eyes bored holes in the stupid dog's back. As she stomped to the bathroom to get toilet paper, all she could think was "I hate dogs I hate dogs I hate dogs I hate dogs..."

    Compare that to: "She glared angrily at the dog and went to get toilet paper. She was so mad she could spit."


    Also, avoid using the word "were."

    Example: "The trees were shaking in the wind." A better version would be: "The branches shook, rattled violently as the wind tore through them, screaming as it tried to rip them from their shuddering trunks."

    It's a fine line, but really makes a difference.

  • 10 years ago

    When telling, you do NOT describe the emotions or the actions. You literally 'tell' the reader what is happening, they cannot imagine what is happening, there isn’t an image in their heads, the reader can really see what is going on


    When showing, you DO describe emotions, actions, EVERYTHING. You get the reader to see everything that is going on vividly, as if they were in a movie watching.

    Instead of *precisely* telling the reader about something, make obvious hints and descriptions.

    Example of telling: George was tall

    Example of showing: George ducked his head under the door frame, his head almost scraping the ceiling as he passed.

    Example of telling: Amy was scared

    Example of showing: Amy found herself chewing her nails, but forced hand down from her mouth. It didn't quite work, as she found herself repeating this act again a mere five seconds later, and a cold sweat fell from her temple.

    They both say the same thing, but showing can make the reader feel more involved.

  • you could show by saying a character's reaction to the cold air, or the humid weather. you could have a character touch a velvet or silk fabric, and remark at how soft it is, how smooth to the touch, like water. you could also describe a certain colour's effect on a character's mood, or on how the room looks like

    what NOT to do: don't just list descriptions. I think that's what the critique means, that you just describe things without determining how they're important.

    An example: TELLING: 'The room is dark, and the leather sofa is a bright red colour.'

    SHOWING: 'His mood drops as he enters the dark room, its lack of light making him depressed. As he nears the bright red of the sofa, he brightens - at least there is some kind of light in this room, however slight it is. He sits down on the sofa, noticing the rough leather fabric used to cover it. He runs his hand along the arm rest, feeling every bump and fold in the fabric.'

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