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Thursday, August 4, 2016

5 Ways to Show and Not Tell

After you knock out your first draft, return to your manuscript with fresh eyes to transform your “tells” into “shows.”

For that second pass, here are a few practical ways to “show” rather than “tell”:

1. Share Stories

Stories allow reader to experience what the character is experiencing.

Telling is saying, “She was bullied.”

Showing is helping the reader to hear the ugly taunts, see the mocking faces, feel the sting of shame. 

Telling is saying, “I had an eating disorder.”

Showing is letting reader see teen picking at a few leaves of lettuce through her mother’s eyes: seeing sunken eyes, noticing an emaciated body and touching her daughter’s thin arm.

2. Use Dialogue

Dialogue engages the reader.

Share a pivotal conversation. Let the reader hear speaker’s tone of voice and glimpse a facial expression.

Caution: Be creative; don't use dialogue as another way to "tell"!

3. Appeal to reader’s senses.

Your job is to let the reader see and hear and smell and taste and touch what’s being described.

4. Be specific.

Use precise language. Instead of tool, hot, fruit and car, use “lathe,” “fiery,” “mango,” and “orange VW Beetle.”

Specificity makes your writing more colorful and engaging.

Caution: Avoid the temptation to overuse adverbs and adjectives. Instead, use better nouns and verbs!

5. Externalize what happens in a character's head.

Even if a character experienced something in her head—the realization that she was in love, or discovering he’d been denied admission to grad school, or learning that she has diabetes—allow the reader to experience it in a more visceral way.

Was her heart racing? Did he feel nauseous? Did she pull an envelope out of a cold tin mailbox? 


*What are other ways to "SHOW" rather than "TELL"?  Leave a comment!

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