In my continuing quest to share things I’ve learned about how to improve my writing, I’d like to address the issue of showing versus telling.

First of all, what does “show vs. tell” mean? Let’s consider the photo below. You can see the man is angry. In a novel without any pictures however, the only way the reader will know the man is angry is if you tell them or show them.

Angry_Man

Telling:

Example #1: He was angry.
Example #2: “This is the worst customer service ever,” he said angrily.

Showing:

Example #1: His eyebrows furrowed and a vein pulsed in his neck.
Example #2: He clenched the phone so hard his knuckles turned white. “This is the worst customer service ever.”

Telling the reader something isn’t wrong, but you can add flair to your writing and increase the emotional factor by showing things instead. Describe how things affect the senses – how things look, feel, sound, etc. – to paint an image in the reader’s mind.

I think the showing vs. telling advice goes hand-in-hand with the use (or overuse) of adverbs. In my Telling example #2 above, the adverb is “angrily.” Basically, you can get rid of an adverb and show what the adverb described instead. Again, it’s not wrong to use adverbs, but the excessive use of adverbs doesn’t involve the reader in your writing as effectively.

Interested in reading more about Showing vs. Telling? Here’s a few articles I liked, and there’s tons more out there. Good luck with your writing, and don’t worry too much about it being perfect; there’s no such thing!

Show Vs. Tell, by Maria V. Snyder
Show vs. Tell – My Take, by E. A. Hill
Show Versus Tell – The Small Details, by Melanie Card
“Show v. Tell” is a Good Rule to Follow, by Mike Duran