I’ve learned a lot about writing during the past twenty years, and a lot of it can be applied to life. That’s what WRITERLY WISDOM is all about.

So, this is actually THE FIRST RULE of writing. There are many things to learn about writing but if you don’t master this one…well, let’s just say the book won’t be as good as it could be.

As a writer, SHOW DON’T TELL means that you don’t tell about the event but you use your words to paint a picture so that the reader is transported into your story.

For example, this is telling: Her wedding was just the way she’d always dreamed it would be.

This is showing:  Marcy gave her niece the signal, a tap on the shoulder. The four-year-old’s little pink dress swished as she made her way down the aisle throwing rose petals as she went. When she saw her mother, she threw her a kiss. 

Marcy straightened out the pearl-laden bodice on her gown, then smiled up at her father. “Are you ready?”

He patted her cheek. “Me? Are you ready? Is this what you want?”

“What do you think? It’s the only think I’ve wanted since I met him when I was twelve.”

He hugged her. “Then lets get this show on the road.”

They stepped forward in unison.


So that’s what SHOW DON’T TELL means when you’re writing. But in life, it takes on a different meaning.

In life we do a lot of talking, especially to our children. We’re always telling them what they should do, what they shouldn’t do, the right thing versus the wrong. And there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, we should tell them that but more than telling them, we should SHOW them.

In other words, actions speak louder than words!

Don’t tell your kids to be kind, show them.

Don’t tell your kids to be honest, show them.

Don’t tell your kids to live a a life of excellence, show them.

So get out there and SHOW DON’T TELL.

Was there a time when words weren’t as important as actions? Tell us about it!


Writing Tips–Show Don’t Tell


It’s Writing Tip Wednesday so here goes…

Show don’t tell is the first rule of fiction writing! So, why wasn’t it my first writing tip instead of second? I haven’t got a clue other than POV was on my mind. Anyway…show don’t tell is what will bring your story alive for your readers. It will put them in the middle of the story so they are experiencing the story rather than have someone telling them the story.

Showing:  Brings the reader into the action. They experience what the character is experiencing

Telling:  Telling is a summary of the event. It’s the way you tell someone about a movie or something that happened to you.

A good writer uses both showing and telling.

A great writer knows when to use showing and when to use telling.

One of the things I noticed with novice writers is that they often bring the reader to the point of a crisis, then suddenly transport the reader to an innocuous scene, such as at the kitchen table sipping coffee. Then the character thinks back to the crisis event and what happened.


That robs the reader of all the emotions of the scene. You never, never, never want to use telling during the pivotal action scenes. That’s when you want to stretch out each agonizing detail. Bring in all the senses, not just hearing and seeing. Try to include smell, touch, and taste. And don’t forget to add in emotions as well.

One clue that you might be telling when you should be showing is if you find yourself writing a flashback to an earlier scene so the reader knows what happened. Chances are you should go back to that scene and show it not tell about it later.

NO-NO: Telling: Her wedding was story book perfect except for the fact that her husband-to be-passed out before they could be wed.
YES-YES: Showing: Her little sister tossed the rose petals from side to side. When she reached the front she turned and waved. This was the moment that Allie had been waiting for her whole life. She tightened her grip on her father’s arm and slowly proceeded down the aisle. Tears filled her eyes as she saw all her family and friends watching her and smiling.

She looked up to the front of the church. She smiled at her handsome husband-to-be. He smiled back but then swayed. In slow motion, he crumpled to the floor.

The key to good writing is to find the balance between showing and telling. Too much showing makes the book too boring. Not enough showing makes the book too boring. And the way to find the balance is….practice–practice–practice.

Hope this helps!

Please share with the rest of us if you have a question or want to share your own examples of showing and telling!