Showing Vs. Telling

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There are a lot of projects on Wattpad explaining this very concept, so I wasn't entirely sure I wanted to do a chapter on it. However, after reading several projects on here and encountering the same problem over and over, I decided to fill in my project with what it was lacking: A chapter on Show Vs. Tell.

Many of you, if you've been writing long enough, are probably already familiar with this concept, but it never hurts to brush up or see if there's something you can learn.


I especially like this concept when used for character reactions/emotions. What I mean by this, is instead of saying:

"Suzie was excited"

you SHOW Suzie's emotions. That example was TELLING. Now I'll show you an example where you SHOW Suzie's excitement.

"Suzie's mouth formed a small 'o' as she clapped her hands, rushing to pick up the present that lay in front of her. The huge grin never left her face as she ripped off the packaging, and a delighted squeal burst from her as she revealed the gift."

^^This is great because it a) SHOWS excitement without directly telling b) Provides some of Suzie's personality c) Provides more story, setting, and plot d) Helps the story flow better.



Now let's try this in first person!

Instead of saying:

"When the door opened, I was scared."

Let's try something that SHOWS the character's fright.


"When the door opened, my breath caught in my chest. I could feel my heart racing as I sunk slowly to the ground, peering around the corner cautiously to see if anybody had come in. It was completely silent. As I gripped the side of the doorframe, I noticed that my hands trembled ever so slightly."


Once again, this shows the character's fright without directly stating it. It also provides setting, characterization (how the character reacts to certain circumstances), feeling, and flow. (Also, I made this up on the spot. If you really try and put a lot of effort into SHOWING your characters feelings, then you can have a really great masterpiece!


You may have a tough time locating times where you 'tell' instead of 'show,' but just keep an eye out for any times when you blandly just state the facts. For example, if you're saying:

"Hurry up," Amanda said, clearly impatient.

That may not seem at first to be 'telling' too much, but the word 'impatient' assumes a lot. So pause a moment and think, what do people normally do when they're impatient? Perhaps they tap their feet, roll their eyes, sigh a lot, or fidget. Pay attention to the normal habits of humans when they're in a certain mood, and then it will be easier for you to more naturally include these in your story!


Also, be sure when you are showing this that you mix up the sentences. What I mean by this is don't start all the sentences with "I" or "my."

For example: MY hands trembled. I opened the door cautiously. My breathing quickened. My face paled."

^^^This doesn't flow at all and it's very choppy. Even in tense, stressful moments, we need our writing to flow just like the rest of the book.

A few points to help make it flow:

~~~Mix up the sentences by adding a couple long sentences, then maybe one short one. (Reread my example and notice the varying sentence lengths.)

~~~Start sentences with varying words. (In the example I gave, I used "When," "I," "It," and "As.")

~~~Don't JUST describe emotion or action, use a mixture of both. In the example I gave, I not only described her shaking hands and quickened heart beat, I also mixed in the fact that she dropped slowly to the ground and gripped the door frame. Tell us what your character is DOING while she is feeling these emotions.




Anyway, this is all I have for now on Show Vs. Tell. I'm not sure if I was in-depth enough, but let me know if you want something explained more. Also, this doesn't just apply to characters reactions/emotions. It also applies to the fives sense. (Example: "I smelled bacon" vs. "the savory aroma of bacon drifted to my nose") HOWEVER, I already covered how to use sight in the very first chapter, followed by the other senses, so you can check that out there.

CHALLENGE: Read through a few chapters of your story and look for examples where you simply TOLD the characters reaction/emotion. Figure out a way to SHOW by using some of the tips I gave above. Feel free to ask for my advice if you're not sure how to transform a certain sentence.

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