Show, Don’t Tell!

When I was a teenager, I had the incredible opportunity to take a writing workshop with Sigmund Brouwer. I’d read most of his several series for youth and dabbled in my own writings. It was a dream come true for me. While I sat at the table with other young, aspiring writers, I hung on to his every word. Every story. Every scrap of advice.

One thing that has stuck with me through all these years since that weekend was my introduction to the phrase “Show, Don’t Tell.” I wrote it down as he said it. I did the exercise he handed out. I chewed my pencil to the nub while thinking deep, philosophical thoughts about it. What a revelation!

Yet, I see so many writers–GOOD ones, with so much potential!–making this one, singularly terrible mistake.

Telling: She walked down the street to get apples from the local merchant.

Showing: Her steps puffed dirt around her ankles, turning her white stockings brown. She knew every crevice in the road, and every bump and hole. The apple merchant was not far. The man in the stocking cap waved to her from his wooden cart, eager to fill her arms up with savory, red fruit.

Which one gives you a tangible visual–something to grasp with your mind? In a book, which would be most effective to hold your audience captive and keep them reading?

Use descriptions and feelings effectively to bring your story to life. Look over sentences and ask yourself if it is showing or telling the reader something? Therein lies one of the differences between decent writing and great writing.

~*~ H ~*~


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