Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Show and Tell


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Our stories show and tell. When to use which? As a reader I prefer stories strong on SHOWING. So I try to craft my books that way.

“Telling” states facts or observations. “Showing” invites much deeper understanding.

Showing Prefers the Specific to the General.

WHEN SHOWing....

1. Use dialogue

2. Use sensory language

Readers need to be able to see, hear, taste, smell and touch the world around them. 

3. Be descriptive

Carefully choose the right words and using them sparingly to convey your meaning.


But sometimes a nice clean info dump can be more reader-friendly, and take up less time and space... 

Situations where telling might be a better idea. 

1. if you're dropping your readers in, "in media res," and you need to focus your reader's attention as fast as possible.

2. You have too much backstory.

3. You can think of a more entertaining way to tell than to show.

(Telling can be a form of texture in the same way that physical description can. They can both be fun and entertaining, or dreary and tiresome.)

It’s perfectly acceptable to TELL the minor details that add up to the point you want to SHOW. 

Both showing and telling can be done badly, and you have to decide which one gives your story the maximum amount of oomph. 

Happy writing, and reading!



  1. Good advice. What's next in your stories?

  2. Thanks for sharing, Eileen. I agree with you on all points. I sometimes admire the storytelling skills of movie makers. They can show so much in a very short time, just through visuals and dialogue. At least, writers are not so limited in time, and telling through a character's POV can also be powerful.

  3. A good story has just the right mix of show and tell, but it's a hard balance to achieve.

  4. Show and tell can be tricky. Dreary = boring while entertaining = exciting.


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