Show vs. Tell

Hello, Write Owls! Welcome to Day 17 of Storytelling 101. Today we’re talking about show vs. tell.

If you’ve been writing for a while, you’ve probably heard of show vs. tell. But what is it?

Show vs. tell has to do with descriptions. In most cases, you want to show rather than tell because it’s more engaging for the reader. Here are some examples of telling vs. showing:

Tell: It was nighttime.

Show: The full moon lit up the garden path with its pale light.

Tell: He was angry.

Show: He clenched his fists and scowled.

Show: He stomped up the stairs and slammed his bedroom door.

Tell: She was underdressed for the cold weather.

Show: She rubbed her hands up and down her bare, goose bump-covered arms and shivered.

As you can see, showing is far more interesting than telling. Most writers are guilty of telling more than showing, but this is something you can fix when editing. However, there are some cases when it’s better to tell than show. If something is unimportant, you can tell it. If you’ve described it before, tell it to avoid redundancy. You can also summarize unimportant scenes like transitions (Moreci). If you’re writing about something that doesn’t fit one of these scenarios, it’s most likely better to show. This is particularly true for important scenes and descriptions. I also suggest showing emotions as much as you can.

These are the basics of show vs. tell. If you have any questions about this topic, please leave them in the comments; and I’ll try to answer them either as a reply or in my Q&A on Saturday.

Discussion Questions:

Feel free to answer these in the comments if you want to chime in!

1) If you’ve written before, do you tend to tell more than show?

2) What’s something you like to be shown rather than told?

Works Cited

Moreci, Jenna. “Show vs Tell – When to Tell.” YouTube, uploaded by Writing with Jenna Moreci, 29 March 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=inDU_M0jcdE

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