Writers 101: Show, Don't Tell



Show and don’t tell has always been many writers’ nightmare and constant struggle that they find it difficult to get a good grip on. Many writers I’ve spoken to have this problem or problem with writing good descriptive scenes.

Children that found their passion in writing and reading at a young age tend to announce they will become the next world acclaimed author when they grow up and some tend to only keep it as a side job when they grow up. Children are very innocent and have simplistic minds. Who hasn’t thought that writing the next big hit like Game of Thrones or Harry Potter would be a piece of cake when they were at the age of ten? Children boast because they had no idea how hard it really is. I never thought it was going to be easy from creating the skeleton of a novel to laying out settings, characters, descriptions, scenes, climaxes, plots, and so forth takes a ton of time and attention. It’s similar to creating a newborn baby by pen.

I went to school for creative writing, and professors have always said there is no rule that can’t be broken and bent to your liking while writing a novel.  That is the fun part about creative writing. Taking out those annoying commas, using more than one period to indicate a pause or hesitating moment, and writing short sentences to build the suspense. It all seems so ideal and easy and an adventurous journey, right? But it isn’t once professors and peers lecture you over and over again about one rule: show and don’t tell.

I have a tendency of telling the inner thoughts of characters rather than using actions and movements to show that to readers in my writing. I don’t know if this has something to do with how I was raised or the type of person that I am. A deep thinker person, good observer with few words and that reflects in most of my characters as well. I feel it’s a constant struggle between how we are on the outside and how we are inside our own little worlds. I believe that everyone spends more time with their inner thoughts rather than interaction with others or it may just be me. I’ll just say I view inner thoughts and sub consciousness more important than physical interaction slightly.

However, as writers we can’t forget that we have an audience as the judge of our final projects. We have to make the readers sympathize and feel rather than to be told what to feel or what to think of a scene or character. Readers make their conclusions through the motives of characters, the power of scenes, and tones of a character about a book. Expositions and inner thoughts/worlds only become a small portion of that in a novel. We have to keep the story moving and keep readers captured in our worlds. Sometimes I forget this sadly. That’s what makes novels so magical and gives it the power to pull a reader in right away depending on how well written the piece is.


I must give many thanks to Carmen Sisson for her tips and advise when I went on Quora to ask for some feedback and tips for the direction of where my novel was going. Many thanks to her and I hope my little rant here has helped fellow writers a little if not a lot.

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