“Show, Don’t Tell” Made Simple

Confused, or not familiar with the “show, don’t tell” concept? Imagine going to an art gallery and looking at two nearly identical paintings hanging side by side. Imagine, too, that both paintings show the same dense forest with a lush foreground and a variety of forest colors. But look again. One painting, beautiful as it is, lies flat on the canvas and has little or nothing to offer you, the viewer, while the other painting has depth created by shadows, and a path that makes you want to step right into that painting and walk right into that forest. Do you see the difference? Do you see and feel the depth in the second painting?

While the artist creates depth by adding shadows, shapes, and varying hues, the writer accomplishes it by showing rather than telling. As a writer, your goal should be to develop word pictures that bring your thoughts up front and up close to the reader, so that he or she can step into and feel and claim your experiences as their own. So don’t tell them that they can step into the forest; show them.

Simple examples of showing versus telling:

Telling:             I thought it was going to rain, so I took my umbrella.
Showing:         I grabbed my umbrella on the way out.

Telling:             The sun was shining.
Showing:         My shadow stayed right with me.

For a closer look at how “show, don’t tell” works, read Snaps, Scraps & Snippets of the Past and Present (How to Retrieve the Lost Pictures of Your Past).

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For a glimpse into my books, Snaps, Scraps & Snippets of the Past and Present, and Light for the Burning Soul, please visit my website as http://loisjfunk.com. I’d love to hear from you!

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