“Show, Don’t Tell” Challenge

Shaping Your Story, Week Four: Show, Don’t Tell

When we read a well-written scene — whether fiction or nonfiction — we can envision it in our mind’s eye. As writers, that means being mindful of showing our readers what’s happening, rather than telling them. Some wise words from C.S. Lewis:

Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, “Please will you do my job for me.”

There’s a place for simple telling in writing, but most of us err on the side of too much. When you re-read your writing this week, look for opportunities to show rather than tell.

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