Show the reader what is happening, don't tell the reader what is happening.

This is one of the most important concepts in creative writing. By DESCRIBING what is happening you allow the reader to truly experience the story. You want the words to be playing out like a movie in the reader's mind—that's how you write a story that the reader doesn't want to put down.

Here's an example so that you can see the difference between telling and showing.

 

“He left the room angry.” (TELLING)

“His face turned beet red and he stomped out of the room, slamming the door behind him.” (SHOWING)

 

In the SHOWING sentence the reader can truly experience what is happening. It adds a visual component to your writing and puts the reader in the story with the character. Notice that the word angry was never even used, yet the reader’s understanding of the character’s emotions is deeper.

YOUR TURN...Turn these "telling" sentences into "showing" ones:

A1.

  • Bill was frightened. He thought someone was behind him.

  •  The teacher was handing out the tests. Jill was nervous.

  •  The building was old.

A2.

  • Alexis was so happy to see her friend, Jade. They haven't seen each other in  six months. 

  • "....," she said jokingly.

     

We experience the world through our 5 SENSES: sight, sound, touch, smell & taste. Let's practice some descriptions using your senses. I find it helpful to close your eyes "walk through the scene" yourself, then describe it using all or most of your senses. You are painting a picture in the mind of the reader.

B1. A park in your neighbourhood (one that has play equipment in it).

B2. Walking in the hallway at your school in between classes.

B3. Walking through an amusement park on a hot summer day.

Instead of TELLING the FEELING, SHOW the FEELING. Describe all of the different things that go along with that feeling:actions, reactions, body sensations, dialogue...

For example: 

SAD

  • trembling lips

  • tears in eyes (eyes filled with tears) 

  • lowers head (head hanging)

  • trembling voice

  • tear running down face

  • quiet voice

  • slumped shoulders

  • crying

  • sniffing

  • red eyes

  • blurred vision

  • lump in the throat                   

CREATE your own FEELING GUIDE...use a notebook so that you can refer back to your work whenever you write. Write a list for each of the feelings below.

Hint: have your notebook handy so when you are experiencing one of the feelings yourself you can write down what & how you are feeling.

C1. Excited
C2. Nervous
C3. Shy
C4. Angry
C5. Scared
C6. Embarrassed
C7. Shocked