Show vs. Tell: The Definitive Run-Down

Under-Paid, Over-Enthused

show vs. tell Photo courtesy of Pixabay, public domain. Edited by S. Hunter Nisbet.

“More showing, less telling” is the battle cry of the the beta reader. But what does it actually mean?

First of all, let’s start by saying that showing and telling are both okay techniques when used properly. There’s nothing inherently wrong with either.

What’s wrong is using them exclusively. A book entirely told is boring. A book entirely shown is way too long and therefore also boring. So what’s the deal with using them?

Before we get started, let’s answer: what is show, and what is tell?

This is where most beginning writers, and a large number of experienced ones, trip up. In their head, they think, “Right, I’ve got this. Showing is like giving people a picture. Telling is saying the word.”

No.

Have you ever read a phrase along the lines of “she felt her lips tug…

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