Showing vs. telling and description go hand in hand, so I'm putting them in the same chapter.
Good writers show. They don't (just) tell.
Briefly, telling means you're telling someone something. Showing means you show it to them through sights, sounds, smells, and other sensation and let them figure out what it means. Showing is generally more effective, BUT:
Good writing has a balance of showing and telling. Do not tell everything and do not show everything. Find the middle ground. However, most novice writers automatically tell more than show, so this thread will focus on how to show things rather than tell. Still, remember that story is made up of both showing and telling.
Generally speaking, showing uses more details and elaboration. It takes more time to accomplish, but it is more effective in getting your reader engaged in the story.
Telling: "Phil was angry."
Showing: "His hands curled into tight fists at his sides. Veins popped out of his arms as his muscles tensed."
When you state an emotion, you are telling. When you describe the physical actions associated with that emotion without outright stating the emotion, you are showing.
Telling: "She was really nerdy."
Showing: "Without prodding, she pulled out a biology textbook--I almost never saw her without that thing--and flipped to a page in the middle. She pushed the bridge of her glasses farther up her nose as her brows furrowed. I knew she wouldn't leave that hunched position until dinner."
When you state a character trait, you are telling. When you describe how that person acts, you're showing.
Now, since I'm lazy, I'll tell you to go to the site in the External Link for more showing vs. telling examples. It goes into a lot of detail and it's an excellent resource that I learned a lot from!
Adverbs tell rather than show.
Don't tell us he ran quickly (the adverb would be "quickly"). SHOW us his racing breath, the numbness in his legs, the burning in his throat.
Don't tell us the girl screamed loudly. Show it through the reactions of others--covering their ears, wincing, gritting their teeth together.
A good description is more like a mini mystery novel. You have to give the readers the clues and let them put them together to paint a picture. A mystery novel is powerful because the reader has to figure out what's happening for themselves. If the author straight-out told them who the murderer was, that wouldn't make for an interesting read. SHOW us. Don't tell us.
Another tip for description: Describe the most important things in your story the most. You don't have to describe every knothole in the maplewood table with four legs. If it's just a table, just say "table". Unless those details are vital to our understanding of the plot or character, leave them out.
Likewise, your MCs love interest is probably important. She/He gets more vivid description than the chair he's sitting in. If your MC is a witch and gets her first wand, the author would want to describe that wand like there's no tomorrow.
How to immerse your description in your story
Do NOT info-dump paragraphs and paragraphs describing the house your MC visits. To make an environment more engaging, do NOT describe it. Your MC needs to REACT to it.
I'll use an excerpt from SuperHero for an example. A lot of people said how they loved the description here, so I'm using it. :P
YOU ARE READING
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