Monday, February 25, 2013

Show Don't Tell

A bit of wisdom from guest blogger Kimberly Rae
This is probably the single thing that defines an author's quality of writing. If you are a reader, you know the difference between a book you read and gain information from, and a book that sweeps you up into its story and characters, and has you closing it looking around wondering where you are.

The difference is in whether you show or tell.

Telling a story is giving the information.
1. The girl was hungry.
2. He felt scared.
3. The house was run down.

You can use impressive words and great structure, but in the end, you told a story without inviting the reader into it.

And then he....zzzzzzzzzzzz

Showing is putting words in front of the reader that have them coming to feel and conclude for themselves. They become an active participant in your story.

For example, using each of the sentences above, here is how an author would show rather that tell:
1. Her stomach cramped up and her mouth watered at the tantalizing sight of two biscuits and a pile of scrambled eggs. (You never say she was hungry, but your reader comes to that conclusion, and is much more involved in the character's hunger.) 
2. A chill ran up his spine. He tried to keep from shivering. Tried to maintain a manly facade. Then his teeth chattered and betrayed him. (This not only shows you he is scared, but you also learn he is insecure as a man and trying to prove he is braver than he is.)
3. Shutters tilted at cockeyed angled from the rusted hinges. Chunks of peeled paint lay scattered across the ground around the house, like confetti from a long forgotten party. He pulled on the screen door and it fell onto the rotting planks of what once must have been a porch. (You definitely get the idea that the house is run down without the author having to say so.)

Do you tend to show or tell in your writing?

"She was angry."

Would you tell the reader about these emotions, or show them? If you aren't sure, go read the first chapter of your latest work. Are you informing your reader with blanket statements of fact, or inviting your reader in with rich description and depth? Readers want to feel a character's emotions, to experience the tingle of fear or suspense or love or dread. They want to be part of your story, and the best way to invite them in is to show with your words.

Kimberly Rae has lived in Bangladesh, Uganda, Kosovo and Indonesia. She has been published over 250 times and has work in 6 languages. Her series of book on international human trafficking (Stolen Woman, Stolen Child, Stolen Future) are all Amazon bestsellers. Find out more at, or read more writing tips from Kimberly on her blog.!

Thank you again and God bless your day!
Kimberly Rae
Know Your Worth, Change The World

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