Writing Tip: Show Don’t Tell

Show don’t tell is an old writing tip, but a good one.

What does it mean exactly?

It means don’t tell us about loneliness (or any of those complex words like dishonesty, secrecy, jealousy, obsession, regret, death, injustice, etc) show us what loneliness is. We will read what you’ve written and feel the bite of loneliness. Don’t tell us what to feel. Show us the situation, and that feeling will be triggered in us.

When you take your child to school on their first day you may find yourself teary and relieved at the same time. Put into words what you see: the child’s face, the wave at the gate, the other mothers saying their goodbyes, another child coming up to take your son by the hand. We will get what you’re trying to say without you telling us directly.

The how-to-write books tell us to use our senses when we write stories:  sight, sound, smell, touch. Writing from the senses is a good way to penetrate your story and make friends with it. Don’t tell us about something, drop deep, enter the story and take us with you.

What about you? Do you consciously bring the senses into your creative writing?

5 thoughts on “Writing Tip: Show Don’t Tell

  1. Thanks for these many writing tips. I suffer too much from fear of grammatical errors to really let my writing flow. Any advice on this other than to find and hire oneself a fantastic editor?

    It seems I have a story to tell but I can’t seem to be able to break through all of the low grade online chatter. How does one find a hardback or paperback publisher in this day and age?

    Thanking you in advance.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear ST, two great questions. i think the best way to receive feedback on our writing is to join a writing critique group. it has to be the right group for you, however. the wrong group can ruin your confidence forever. the publisher question is less easy to answer. very hard. all you can do is keep submitting, after first making sure your draft is as good as you can possibly make it. after working through early drafts with a writing group or mentor, perhaps it is worthwhile to hire an editor before submitting to a publisher. hope this helps.
      all the best on your writing journey. Libby

      Liked by 1 person

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