Show, Don’t Tell - How to write vivid descriptions, handle backstory, and describe your characters’ emotions
How much do I want to read more? 7/10
The author does a pretty good job at explaining the difference between telling and showing.
It gives perspective and accuracy. A nice paradigm to reflect on when you're going to write about something.
This is a short book, easy to read.
Worth the read.
1. Introduction — What this book will teach you
- understand why showing is such a powerful tool;
- spot telling in your own manuscript;
- fix bland passages and turn them into compelling scenes;
- keep from telling what you have already shown;
- avoid the three danger areas of telling;
- describe your characters and your setting in interesting ways;
- put powerful emotions into your writing;
- incorporate backstory into your novel without resorting to telling ;
- recognize telling in dialogue;
- avoid overshowing and swamping your readers with too many details;
- learn when telling is actually a good thing;
- immerse your readers into your story and keep them captivated from beginning to end.
2. Definition — What show, don’t tell means
“Show us that she’s a spoiled little girl; don’t tell us!”
“Show us that he lives in a run-down apartment building; don’t tell us!”
“Show us that she’s angry at her father; don’t tell us!”
Telling means that you—the author—give your readers conclusions and interpretations; you tell them what to think instead of letting them think for themselves.
Showing means that you provide your readers with enough concrete, vivid details so that they can draw their own conclusions.
Telling is like giving readers a secondhand report afterward.
Showing lets readers experience the events firsthand, through the five senses of the character.
Telling is like reading about an accident in the newspaper the day after it happened.
Showing is like witnessing the accident the moment it happens, hearing the screech of the metal and the screams of the injured.
Telling summarizes events that happened in the past or gives general statements that don’t happen at any specific time.
Showing lets readers witness events in real time, in actual scenes with action and dialogue. We stay in the present, firmly rooted in the POV character’s experience.
Telling is abstract.
Showing creates a concrete, specific picture in the reader’s mind.
Telling gives you facts.
Showing evokes emotions.
Telling is also called narrative summary.
Showing is dramatization.
Telling distances readers from the events in the story and from the characters and makes them passive recipients of information.
Showing involves readers in the story and makes them active participants.
- Tina was angry.
- Tina slammed the door shut and stormed into the kitchen. “What the hell were you thinking?”
Get out a notebook or a sheet of paper and try your hand at the “Tina was angry” sentence. How would you show your readers that Tina is angry without stating her emotions? Use actions, body language, and dialogue to show her anger.