Mastering the Art of ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ In Your Creative Writing

Showing and telling are two different ways of relating events in fiction or nonfiction writing. When you “show” the reader what is happening, you use sensory images and specific details to create a vivid picture.

When you “tell” the story, you rely on summary and exposition to convey the essential information. In order to be an effective writer, it is important to know when and how to use each technique.

Which approach is best depends on your purpose and your audience. Generally speaking, though, showing tends to be more engaging for readers because it allows them to experience the story first-hand. It also creates a sense of intimacy between the writer and reader, as if they are witnessing something private and personal. Telling can be useful for recounting events quickly or for imparting information in a concise way, but it can often feel cold or detached from the reader

In this article, we’ll explore the differences between showing and telling, with examples from both fiction and nonfiction writing. We’ll also look at some tips for using each technique effectively. So let’s get started!

Showing vs Telling In Creative Writing

In fiction and creative nonfiction, showing allows the reader to experience the story as it unfolds. This is done through the use of sensory images, specific details, and other concrete language. When writers show rather than tell, they engage all of the reader’s senses and create a vivid picture in their minds. This can be an effective way to create suspense, build tension, and keep the reader engaged.

Telling, on the other hand, is more concise and factual. It relies on summary and exposition to convey the essential information about what is happening. This approach is often used in nonfiction writing, such as in history or science textbooks. While it can be useful for imparting information quickly, it can also feel cold and detached from the reader.

Examples of Showing

Let’s take a look at a few examples of showing in action. We’ll start with an example from the nonfiction book ‘Into the Wild’ by Jon Krakauer. In this passage, Krakauer is describing the night that Chris McCandless died:

“He’d made a fire out of twigs and leaves and grass, but it wouldn’t light. He tried again and again, until he was too weak to continue. Then he crawled into the sleeping bag, curled up in a ball on the ground, and surrendered to the cold.”

Krakauer uses sensory images to paint a picture of McCandless’s final moments. We can see the scene in our minds and feel the desperation that he must have been feeling. We can almost feel the cold ourselves.

Now let’s look at an example of showing from the novel ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ by J.D. Salinger. In this passage, Holden is describing his younger brother, Allie:

“He had this stupid-looking baseball mitt. It was red and blue, and it didn’t fit him right. It was too big. He always kept licking his lips, too. That drove me nuts.”

Again, we can see the scene in our minds and feel Holden’s frustration with his brother. The use of specific details allows us to empathise with Holden and understand his feelings.

Showing can be difficult to master, but it is worth the effort. By developing your skills in this area, you will be able to create more powerful and memorable writing that engages your readers and pulls them into your story.

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