Show Vs Tell, a writing technique.


Recently, I have been reading a lot regarding writing styles and mechanisms, and one that has resonated with me has been Show Vs Tell.  It’s an simple enough construct, readers respond better to writing when they can experience the scene, not just read it.

‘Tell’ will give them the action and a catalog of emotions, while with ‘Show’ the character is the lens with which the reader experiences the scene for themselves.

Tell example,

“Peter was scared as he opened the door”

Show rephrasing,

“Peter’s face was ashen, his breathing coming in ragged gasps. Uneasy, mouth and throat dry he pushed the aged paint chipped door to the dark and ancient bedroom open”

What is important in ‘Show’ is a strong use of verbs, allow the reader to become emotionally involved, not just tell them they should.  This is achieved using expressive dialogue and an attention to detail in the scene.

There are plenty of descriptions of Show Vs Tell out there and they give some examples, but I found them to be a little spare so I came wrote some ‘Show’ examples of my own (which are not perfect) which I thought may be useful to other people researching into this topic.

Tell: Lisa is a spoiled child.

Show: Lisa rips and shreds at the latest of the already many opened gifts with hungry excess. Inspected, it is soon discarded to the mountain of red, green and gold wrapping paper cocooning the floor around her,  neglected like the others before it as she screamed out for more presents. Continue reading