Thursday, October 27, 2011

Writing Tip of the Day: Show and Tell

"Show don't tell" is probably the most common writing advice people get, but it's often misunderstood. It does not mean "avoid exposition at all cost." Storytelling requires a certain amount of exposition. So relax on that front. And whatever you do, don't cram your exposition into the dialogue.

"Show don't tell" simply means that you need to let the reader experience what the character is going through. So instead of writing, "Craig was angry at Mabel," show us his anger through dialogue or action. Make him roll his eyes at her, or respond sarcastically when she asks if he picked up his jacket from the cleaners, or storm out the door because she didn't put enough ice in his drink. Your writing will be more vivid and effective.


Nancy Lauzon said...

Hi Ellen,

So true ... fairly easy to do, but telling is so common with beginner writers (I used to do it before I learned the ropes).


Ellen said...

Hi, Nancy. Thanks for commenting! And yes, it's a common problem. But I've also seen writers take it to the other extreme where they're afraid to put ANY exposition in their stories because they don't really understand how to apply the rule.