Show Me Don’t Tell Me

I’ve learned a lot since I had my first book published. The writing journey is an amazing one. When writers decide to buckle down and finish that first manuscript, reality hits. It’s hard. And it’s a lot of work. There’s all these rules you don’t know about until your work gets in front of an agent or editor or you join a writing group.

When I joined ACFW, a Christian writing group, my eyes were opened to a whole new universe. They had lots of workshops and online classes to help strengthen my work. That’s when I started to hear the buzz about showing versus telling in writing. My first instinct was to check out some of the best sellers out there to see how they did it. I was surprised by the impact a book had when the author showed their story.

Always show instead of tell to bring your story alive. Here are some examples to give you a clear idea what the difference is between the two.

  • Telling: She was mad.
  • Showing: Kira reared back and put her hands on her hips.

  • Telling: He felt upset.
  • Showing: He closed his eyes and lowered his head into his hands.

  • Telling: Embarrassment ran through Sabrina.
  • Showing: Heat climbed up Sabrina’s face and her shoulders slumped.

‘Was’ is a very common word that will tell instead of show. Erase that word too when at all possible.

Odds are if you have to use the word ‘felt’, you’re probably telling and not showing in most cases. So go back through those manuscripts and annihilate that word. Work on the best way to show your characters’ feelings through actions.

Telling an emotion, as in the third example, is a good sign you need to rework a sentence.

Once you’ve taken the time to turn your telling into action, your book will come alive to your readers. It adds a whole new dimension to your story and keeps readers turning the pages. What are some common ‘telling’ words you find yourself using? Send them to me. I’d love to hear from you.

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