Writer, Are You Showing or Telling?

By Andrea Merrell

We hear it at conferences, discuss it in our critique groups, and read it in books: show—don’t tell.

Like using POV (point of view) correctly, once we get the hang of showing, it becomes much easier to achieve in our writing.

Example: Joe walked across the street for the confrontation. (telling and boring)

Better example: Joe’s feet felt laced with cement as he crossed the busy intersection. Each step brought him closer to the inevitable confrontation—for which he was not ready.

When we are telling a story—whether fiction or nonfiction—we want to draw our readers into our world by making it come alive. We can paint a picture in many ways, including the five senses: see, hear, touch, smell, and taste. The first three come fairly easy, but what about the last two?

The best model I can think of is from The Food Network. If you’ve ever watched the shows on this network, you understand what I mean when I say you can almost smell and taste the scrumptious dishes they prepare. Why? Because of the way the food is described. When done well, it becomes an experience, not just something we’re watching.

Example: This food is so good. It’s delicious. (Tells us nothing. They could be describing almost anything.)

Better example (taken from several different shows):

The scent of yeast tickled my nose as I bit into the perfectly browned roll, fresh from the oven. The honey butter slathered on top gave it just enough sweetness. A forkful of creamy mashed potatoes seasoned with sour cream and chives took me back to Grandma’s kitchen. But the pièce de resistance was the beef Bourguignon, delicately flavored with garlic, onions, a hint of red wine, and secret herbs and spices that made my mouth water. I closed my eyes and savored the first bite as it melted in my mouth. Bon appétit.

Are you hungry yet?

Using these techniques in your writing will bring it to the next level … and make your readers very, very happy.

Photo by Ray Hennessy on Unsplash

Photo by Farhad Ibrahimzade on Unsplash


When you master the art of showing (not telling) in your writing, your readers will be very, very happy. via @Andrea Merrell (Click to tweet.)




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