We Still Need to Show, not Tell

While one of the most important principles about writing is keep your writing succinct, another important principle says to show your reader what you’re saying instead of telling  him or her.

It’s hard to grasp this concept sometimes because we think of storytelling as telling a story, when, in reality, the best storytellers are those who show us the story.

How many times have you read a book, then seen the movie, and come away disappointed because the main character didn’t look right? When you read the book, you “saw” the character in your mind and that worked for you. When your image didn’t match the image on the movie screen, you didn’t relate as well to the character (or maybe even to the storyline).

Your readers create images in their minds when they read your writing too. You can help the reader see your point, see your character, see your setting, see your vision, etc. by using a few extra words to help create image.

Here’s an example of tell: Sherry is a wonderful friend. She’s smart and caring. She’s always there when I need her.

Here’s an example of show: Sherry came over yesterday after I called her. She sensed I was feeling a bit down and offered to bring lunch so we could spend the time talking rather than cooking. She let me vent and we ended up laughing before she went home.

Which example creates image as you read? Granted, showing requires more words than telling, but they are words well worth the effort.  Whether you’re writing books, stories, or even letters, show, don’t tell.

Happy writing!


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