Show don’t tell | Creative Writing Tips | Show don’t tell writing
Show, don’t tell
Any newbie to the writing world will undoubtedly have heard the expression ‘show, don’t tell’. Creative writing tips don’t get much better than this. Show, don’t tell is used to creative vivid characters and scenes, in order to capture the reader’s interest. When reading books, nobody likes to read, ‘Kate walked around the corner, she was horrified, and very angry.’ – that is boring material. Show, don’t tell is an essential tool to assist writers, and ensure they avoid ‘boring from telling’.
Whilst ‘telling’ can be beneficial, even essential within a short-story, novel or children’s book, ‘showing’ is the captivator within a story. As a reader, you are being led by ‘showing’. You get into the physique of the characters, walking in their footsteps and are a passenger on their journey. You empathise with the characters, their thoughts and feelings become yours and most importantly, you want to read more.
Here are a few ‘show, don’t tell’ ideas for you to digest…
Opportunity for ‘showing’: conversations between characters (Dialogue)
Dialogue between characters diverts your writing from the narrator’s voice and is a fanastic oppotunity to ‘show‘. It provides the prospect of captivating your reader into believing they are watching the scene happen. Look at these two short examples and decide which you think works better and why?
Showing – “The amount of footprints in the sand rapidly increased”, opposed to
Telling – “He ran really fast along the beach.”
Showing – “The setting of trees played chinese whispers.” opposed to
Telling – “The trees were close together, touching.”
Use ALL your senses to describe: not just sight.
As a beginner we all tend to focus on sight as the means of connecting with the reader, ‘Wow she was beautiful, she looked like a red rose…blah blah blah’ . This sentence has been effective in creating a picturesque image in the readers’ mind – which is good. Although its limitations are just that – it’s picturesque. I encourage you writers to use more of your senses within writing: what does she smell like? Sound like? Taste like with a kiss, and feel like in your arms? The whole, picturesque simile (she’s as beautiful as…) has been overdone and now it’s outdated. The message is simple, create your own similes using your other senses; after all…beauty is only skin deep.
Below I have attached two snippets of my earliest creative writing pieces for you to have a look at. The first is a classic example of a creative writing piece that has been bombarded with ‘telling’ opposed to ‘showing’. The latter combines all todays suggestions, and moreover a mixture of ‘showing and telling’ and personification. You decide which you prefer…
[To save you the thought time; 'The window' is metaphorical for a mirror and the man is staring at himself. Whilst the vocabulary and the general idea are both good, there is a complete 'detachment' from the reader. As always, comments are welcome - I would be interested to hear your thoughts.]
I watched him through the window as he stood proudly and purposefully, his shoulders held back with poise, his head held high withassurance. His face posed eloquently from side to side, as my eyes followed every move that he made. He looked at the window, at a first glance from afar, he could see his dreams, everything he ever wished for, staring directly back into his eyes. As he stepped closer to the window the image appeared distorted, with every footstep closer, he saw his dreams diminish, distressingly; the window no longer emitted his opportunity. He arrived at the window to observe a night of darkness and vacancy, surprisingly he gazed into a bottomless pit in spite of his understanding nothing would appear. The concentration on his face surpassing expression, he confided in the night hoping that the image from afar was going to re-appear…but it did not. Was he searching for me? I asked myself, but how could he know that I am here? His subconscious exposed me, luckily, for now my image feel upon complacent eyes. I felt uneasy; I comforted my mind with assertive realignment. I was here for a reason, a purpose, a meaning, I do not need to understand this person I am observing as of yet, I simply had to look hard enough to find him first. I began to feel sorry for this man, as he desperately searched to find me, but yet every time his eyes wavered around the window he simply could not distinguish me from the darkness. A light suddenly appeared in-front of where I stood and exposed my image, I looked into the window and knowing what he was searching for all along…he found me.
I Will Be There
There was an audience of one when the sun fell asleep onto the horizon, whilst the lively stars peeked out of the darkness to say hello. Every cloud in the sky caught stage fright, from the beautiful show that was this setting. The owls from altitude incited Ben, jeering and teasing, of their vision this hour of darkness. Ben, in disregard, closed his eyes, tilted his head back and filled his lungs with a gentle cinnamon smell that strolled into each nostril with reception. Ben paused with his lungs filled, then like a dripping tap, the air slowly vacated. He opened his eyes, looked intently and admiringly into the setting and was glad every significant person within his life could join him. Beautiful night and a beautiful setting, there was only one thing missing Ben thought… a campfire.
David always loved campfires, when he and Ben were in their school days; they regularly squatted on the beach and created the finest campfires, where the flames danced flamboyantly into a wooden stage. They constructed the fire by gathering large boulders from the local cliff tops, and then gathered branches from the trees of which the cliff tops proudly boasted.