Show, Don’t Tell: Huh?

“Show, don’t tell” is a fundamental principle of writing that can greatly enhance the reader’s experience. Instead of directly stating a character’s emotions or actions, you use descriptive language and actions to indirectly convey them to the reader. This allows them to infer the character’s emotions and makes the writing more engaging and immersive.

Just kick him in his robot codpiece!

For example, instead of saying “Bob was angry,” you could describe the character’s clenched fists and raised voice. This allows the reader to understand the character’s emotion without it being explicitly stated. Instead of saying “Carla was a kind person,” the author could describe the character’s actions of helping others and her gentle demeanor (especially being nice to critters like pets and wild animals.) By showing these traits, the reader can pick up on the character is a kind and caring person.

Another way to show instead of tell is through sensory details. By describing the sights, sounds, smells, and other sensations, you can create a more vivid and realistic scene for your readers. You can describe the warm sunshine on the character’s skin, the sound of birds singing, and the smell of freshly cut grass (quick nod to Hermione) instead of “it was a beautiful day.”

You can also try using dialogue to show things. Allow the characters to speak for themselves to reveal their emotions, thoughts and personalities. Instead of saying “Sarah was sad,” the author could have the character say something like “I can’t stop crying.”

Try using imagery and metaphor to show emotions or actions: “Tyler felt trapped,” versus him being “caged in his own thoughts.”

Whenever I make an initial editing pass, I look for places where I’m telling instead of showing. It’s easy for them to slip in when you’re word vomiting a first draft. Cleaning them up before sending your work to an editor will help cut down on their workload and get your manuscript polished and out the door faster.

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