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jump to last post 1-6 of 6 discussions (9 posts)

What do you think "show don't tell" means in writing?

  1. CroftRoan profile image81
    CroftRoanposted 5 years ago

    What do you think "show don't tell" means in writing?

    This might be a silly question but I want to know. I've been told this by two creative writing teachers. I never really understood what it meant because to me writing is telling. If you want to show a story you'd draw a comic strip. I'd appreciate another person's view on it.

  2. LupitaRonquillo profile image79
    LupitaRonquilloposted 5 years ago

    In one of my novel course books I read that "action" should be atleast 30% of your text and that action should be "shown and not reported, or told." New writers often don't practive the method of showing action and end up drying out their writing by just simply telling what happened.
    "John! Put that book away!" This is showing.
    She asked John to put the book away. This is telling.
    Another tip for better writing is avoiding redundancy, which would be showing and then telling simultaneously.
    "John! Put that book away!" After she told him to put the book away, ...

    Hope this helps! big_smile

    1. CroftRoan profile image81
      CroftRoanposted 5 years agoin reply to this

      This does. Thank you!

    2. LupitaRonquillo profile image79
      LupitaRonquilloposted 5 years agoin reply to this

      Also when you show and not just tell, it allows the reader to become more connected to the character because they "hear" the character in their mind vs. just hearing of something they did.

  3. profile image0
    apimentel33posted 5 years ago

    I think it means writing something but leaving enough aspects to the reader's imagination. We can describe characters and scenery when we write, but telling our readers every little detail about everything leaves little to their imagination.

    This resonates with fiction writing where all kinds of characters are involved and they are of course described by the writer, but readers should still manage to have their own perceptions of what these characters look like, how they carry themselves, things like that. It makes me think of when you read a book then see the movie that's based on the book and say to yourself, "Oh, I didn't picture (character) to look like that." We can all read the same stories but still have different perceptions of it all.

    1. CroftRoan profile image81
      CroftRoanposted 5 years agoin reply to this

      That's a good way of looking at it.

  4. Diana Lee profile image83
    Diana Leeposted 5 years ago

    Let your characters not only describe themselves, but everything going on in the story.  Dialogue shows you the way and a narrative approach will only tell you what is taking place. I'm still very much in the practice mode myself when it comes to writing good fiction, but I have learned the more dialogue the better. The more action with fewer words the better. Too much description will lose your reader before you are off and running. Show don't tell.

  5. Theophanes profile image97
    Theophanesposted 5 years ago

    I have always taken this to mean being more expressive in your writing, perhaps even more clever in how you illustrate certain points. For instance you could say, "It was a dark and stormy night" (telling) or you could emphasize the weather in other ways... "The children were under their covers shivering, flashlight in hand, as thunder shook the house around them."

  6. multiculturalsoul profile image83
    multiculturalsoulposted 5 years ago

    I'm another creative writing teacher (and author) who preaches "show, don't tell." To make it clearer to my students, I introduce T. S. Eliot's "objective correlative." Don't let the fanciness of the phrase bother you. It's rather a simple concept ... which (I humbly offer) I put into a hub: … and-Poetry

    Feel free to ask me any questions you might have.