Show, don’t Tell: a Simple Guide

Show, don’t tell advice and more.

Nicholas C. Rossis

From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books From nicolemichelleblog.com

The rule is drilled into all of us. We’re not to tell, we’re to show. I was discussing writing rules with MMJaye the other day, and I thought our conversation would interest the rest of you as well.

As anyone who has written even a few words knows, there are many different ways of saying the same thing. Consider the following example:

I met John.

No details, just a simple statement. Telling at its most basic. If we wanted to show our relationship, we could have said:

I met my enemy, John.

Now, let’s embellish that a bit, in the simplest way possible:

I greeted my enemy, John.

Simply by changing the verb, we have created a more descriptive, yet equally simple, phrase. So far, we’re still telling, though. To show, we would need to add some detail:

I shook John’s hand. Hard.

A bit awkward, but we’re moving in…

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