Show Don’t Tell

Show Your Reader the Way

As a writer you hear “show don’t tell” time and time again, but what does it really mean?

I must admit that I struggle with this and have been spending some time looking into how I can improve my writing skills and incorporate this more into my book.   It is an adept skill to be able to create an image in your reader’s mind as they read the words you have written.  It really is an important part of being a writer, it is one we all need to master.

OK, here goes….

What is Difference between Showing vs. Telling?

“Telling” is writing a list of facts and information for the reader to read, where as “Showing” provides a background from which the reader can figure out on their own what is happening.

Below is a piece of text written in the two styles: one “telling” and the other “showing”, based on the same image the writer wishes to impart to the reader.

(1) Telling:

The man was 6ft tall and walked with a cane, his hair was white and his face wrinkled with age.  He crossed the road and enter a his apartment block.

(2) Showing:

A man limped across the road, slowly edging his way through the rushing traffic.  At the other side, he turned his face to look back at the busy traffic, and put up his arm to protect his aged eyes from the harsh sunlight. He then ducked down and stepped into the gloom.

The aim is to make the text more interesting, allowing the images to form in the mind of the reader.  Each piece painting a picture using words. The reader is part of the journey, brought into the unfolding of the story and permitted to create their own movie in their heads.

Show Using Dialogue

Another great way to “showing” is through dialogue.  Conversation between characters is a great way to show the reader in an engaging way.

(1)  Telling:

Martha told Philip that she was going to her pilates class in the morning and then she would drive over to meet her mother for lunch.

(2)  Showing with dialogue:

“What are you up to today?” asked Philip, as he sipped his coffee.

“I’m off to pilates class this morning. Mum called last night and I’ve arranged to meet her at Rico’s for a bite of lunch, and then I’ll see,” answered Martha, as she grabbed her gym bag and headed to the front door, twirling her car keys around her finger.

Use Strong Verbs to Paint a Picture

Choosing the right word is key in creating a dramatic picture in your reader’s mind.   Let’s have a quick look:

1)   Mark walked down the street with his hands in his coat pocket.

2)  Mark shuffled down the street with his hands stuffed deep into his pockets, his head hung low.

The right verb will imply so much more to the reader and create a more defined image.

Create a Movie Show in Your Reader’s Head

The art of an accomplished writer is to write a story and allow it to unfold in the reader’s mind like a movie show.   Draw the reader in and keep them engaged, and “showing” is a great way to do this.

Telling Does Have Its Place

Just know that “telling” has its place in writing and you can, of course, use it to provide the reader with important information.  However, add a good mix of “showing” and you will keep your reader’s mind active.  The more emotionally involved your reader is in the development of your storyline, the more they connect with the story.

It is the author’s job to forge a link and immerse the reader in the story as it unfolds – SHOW DON’T TELL – and allow your reader to unravel the story.



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Silence opens the door to Creative Flow

It is only in the last year, as I have embarked on my spiritual Soul journey, that I have heard time and time again that to connect with our creative flow, we need to step back, slow down and be open to the Universe.

Now, I don’t know about you, but this sounded extremely strange to my mind.   I failed to see how doing nothing could provide the solutions or insights needed to undertake a task.   I was used to working hard to get things done with the instilled ethos – keep working away to get results.   This new method was alien to me.

However, if nothing, I am curious.   When something is brought to my attention three times (thank you Universe) I sit up and pay attention.  And so it was with this concept, I decided to test the theory for myself.   There was something appealing about easing up and allowing the answers or creative ideas to flow to me. 

So what happened?

Well, I decided that it warranted further investigation and did some further research into this approach.   My findings were quite interesting, and really quite rewarding.

The all-important step was to learn how to embrace the “silence”, and there are 3 methods I tried out:

1) Meditation

2) Mundane/routine tasks

3)  Time in Nature

Calm the Mind with Meditation

More and more we are reading and seeing meditation integrating into our mainstream way of living.  For example, Yoga and many other fitness and spiritual disciplines utilizes meditation.   It has been proven that allowing the mind to enter a quiet state, allows the mind to think more clearly and the body to de-stress.  


People who meditate regularly often say they receive solutions or creative ideas in this calm mind state.   It would seem that whilst the mind is clear of all the noise and clutter –  open it to receiving new insights.  


Even Einstein proclaimed that opening the mind was the way for ideas to be generate.

The Power of Mundane Tasks

Another way to allow the brain space to work, is to do boring mundane tasks.   Many creative geniuses, including a few well-known bestselling authors, have managed to create great works while still working their day-jobs.  

Many have found that doing routine tasks frees up the creative side of the brain.   Routine tasks occupies the ‘Left Brain’ and creates space for the creative ‘Right Brain’.  I know that while doing ironing my mind goes off on a tangent and soon it is a buzz with thoughts and ideas.   I must admit, as I am writing my first fiction book, I see the storyline with characters appearing in movie-style screens in my mind.    So often doing some mundance household tasks ends up juicing up my writer’s mind.  I just need to make sure I allow time to sit down and write it all down.

Time in Nature

Walking in Nature is also a great way to clear your head and as you focus on the moment, taking in the beauty around you – your mind will use the silence to formulate ideas.    Many creative souls include a walk as part of their daily routine.  


My Conclusions

The results have been extremely supportive, and I enjoy the peace and calm each method brings.   I cannot say that one method is better than the other.  It totally depends on the individual.   I find that a mixture of all methods work well – one day I might enjoy a soul-boosting walk, the next a quiet meditation, and even ironing has prompted useful insights.

As the adage says “Silence is Golden”, and it certainly can be for writers.

Make time for SILENCE in your day – you too will be surprised at the results.


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