Kick It Up a Notch

February 21, 2006 | It's All About Writing

Show Don’t Tell is a confusing phrase that has many new writers yanking out their hair. What does it mean? How do I do it? Leave those Clairol locks in place because the explanation is simple.

Showing is action. It is what your character is doing at that moment. Telling is a passive writing, a way of explaining what your character is doing. It can also be considered author intrusion, a big no-no to editors.

Here are a few examples;

Telling – Liz had on a red suit with a white rose in the lapel and a white linen blouse.

Showing – Liz plucked a white rose from the bouquet on the coffee table. Carefully she slipped the short stem into her lapel then glanced in the mirror and smiled at how perfect its creamy color looked against the red jacket. She tugged on her blouse cuff, gently so as not to wrinkle the linen.

T – There was shouting from the balcony.

S – Shouts echoed from the balcony.

T – The dog show was judged by Frank.

S – Frank judged the dog show.

T – Mary was sad.

S – May sobbed.

In many cases showing requires more words to paint the right picture and that’s a good thing if the scene requires them.

To easily locate the places where you Tell, hold down the Control key while you press the letter F key. It will bring up a Find and Replace panel. Type in the word ‘was’ without the apostrophes and press ‘Find Next’. Read each sentence and/or section that appears. Should it or could it be more active? You may be surprised at how your novel will improve by this simple exercise.

Thursday we’ll discuss dialogue and just how important it is to your story.

Until then, Happy Writing,

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5 Responses to “Kick It Up a Notch”

  1. Yasmine Says:

    Cool, and thanks Sloane. I like the easy way you explain this.

  2. Sloane Says:

    You’re welcome, Sweet Yasmine. Hope it helps and I sure hope you’re feeling better.

  3. Beth Anderson Says:

    Dynamite, baby!! You nabbed it in a few short, clear sentences.

    Loved your examples.

    Three cheers and then some!!!

  4. Sherrill Quinn Says:

    Thanks for this, Sloane. I always think of telling as part of author intrusion. But it’s very easy to do! 🙂

  5. Sloane Says:

    Thank you, Ladies. I’m glad to see your responses and that I’m not completely full of crap. All this is my perception and sure am happy it’s on the right path.