April 4, 2008, Newsletter Issue #156: Show vs. Tell

Tip of the Week

There are two ways of getting an idea across in fiction--SHOWING and TELLING. Descriptive language which paints a picture of what you want to convey is always the better way--itīs simply more interesting to read. Telling the reader what to think is flat and boring, and does not inspire him or her to read the prose carefully and thoughtfully. Here are some examples.

TELLING: "They held the gala in the big ball room, and the decor was beautiful."

SHOWING: "They held the gala in the big ball room, the one in which the Christmas tree stretched to the ceiling, and gold silk bunting draped the walls. A buffet of fruits, nuts and chocolates stood in the corner."

Clearly, the "Showing" example tells us exactly what the room looked like and why it was beautiful in the narratorīs opinion.

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