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Writing Show Do Not Tell

Updated on October 15, 2015



Not Just a Saying

The words, Show Don't Tell, have been around a long time. Most people like the saying ... What Does it Mean?

It means to summarize what is going on using details that people can understand in daily life. Actions can be summarized this way, as well.


The man ran along side a dingy dog causing the dog to bark so viscous that the man nearly shook from the inside out, causing him to sprint away haphazardly into an oncoming carefree cyclist.

A lot of action is going on in this sentence. The man is being barked at by a dog, panicked, and he makes the wrong discussion. The sentence also asks a lot of questions. Most importantly it tell us action with out answering what is really going on.

We know little about the man and the other characters.

The Use

This should be used when action is happening but the writer does not want to give away all the details right away. The event go by so fast that the reader will need to keep reading to understand what they just read.

This might be great for setting a crime scene. Also, it will be great for setting up action with many characters involved in the scene. In the last example of, "Show Do Not Tell," that I gave there was three characters effected that were mentioned. There could easily be more there watching the action.

Needed Information

Show Do Not Tell, can refer to the points of interest in the novel. A place in the novel that needs to be talked about that is the focal point of the novel.

The character lives in a certain town. The writer would want to include name and what it means to plot.


Your character is going to be living in a small town in Florida. This will effect everyone in the novel. Not one person should be buying heavy jackets or preparing for a heavy winter. Everyone who reads will know that the actions of the characters will have something to do with the state, too.

Another example:

Your character lives in a small town in Europe. The people will act far different from the people in the last example. The roads would not flow in the same directions. The people will be educated, differently.


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