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Release Your Show, Don’t Tell Writer

February 10, 2013
Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Have you ever heard a reader say that they wish you would show your story, not tell it.

If you’re like me, then you’re probably thinking, what the heck does that mean?

Of course you have to tell the story, right. After all, you’re reading words on a page, not watching some live action movie.

But actually, who ever told you that has a point.

There’s an art to descriptive writing that can only be mastered from trying it.

So what exactly are you doing wrong that causes your story to be told, and not shown?

If you story is filled of descriptions that simply says “she was afraid”, “he was happy”, or “she looked confused”, then you’re telling the story.

So how do you start showing your story?

Take note of how people react all around you.

I went to the bank recently and I asked the teller a question (something dumb, I think). Instead of responding, she opened her mouth slightly, brought her brows together and shot me a sideways glance.

See how much better that was than just saying she looked confused.

Reading the look on her face, I was compelled to explain myself further.

But I also did something else. The first chance I got, I wrote down that great expression she gave me (using my mobile phone, of course).

Keeping track of how people actually react when they are afraid, happy, or confused is a great way to release show, don’t tell writing in your story.

So next time you’re in the office, in the bank, or just walking down the street, look around and take note of how people are expressing their emotions. Emulate it in your writing and let’s see if readers will approve of how descriptive your story is.

So what do you think about releasing your show don’t tell writer? Let me know in the comments. And if you haven’t already, click here to read The King of Hansguard, this month’s trailer of my latest book, King Larsen.

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From → Writing Tips

2 Comments
  1. I try not to narrate what the character is thinking. Rather, I have them take action that reflects what they’re thinking. I think too many writers want to tell the readers what’s going on in their characters’ brains, but the truth is that they can figure it out for themselves, provided you show the right thing.

    • That’s also a great technique, Jack. You can use the way a character moves or acts to reflect an emotion like being nervous.

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