Yesterday, we learned a great tip for following the essential writing advice, “Show, Don’t Tell.” Today, we’re going to continue to work on showing instead of telling with this writing prompt.

Show Don't Tell Writing Prompt

What Does Show, Don’t Tell Mean?

Showing vs. telling is the difference between a film and your best friend telling you the latest news about her love life.

Showing brings your reader into your story. It allows them to see what your character is seeing, smell what she’s smelling, experience what she’s experiencing. How do you show instead of telling? You use the following storytelling elements:

  • Action
  • Dialogue
  • Sensory detail (description)

And you avoid the following storytelling elements:

  • Inner monologue
  • Exposition/Narrative

Need some examples of each? Check out our post, 5 Elements of Storytelling.

Sometimes Show, Don’t Tell is Bad Advice

Showing has it’s limitations.

As we talked about in our post, The Secret to Show, Don’t Tell, the more you show, the longer your narrative becomes. This is fine for important, high conflict scenes, but what about when your main character gets a cup of coffee or has a conversation with the postman about the weather? Do you really need to show then? Of course not!

Show, don’t tell is important, but too much showing and your story will start to feel like a home movie: slow and sloppily edited. (Share that on Twitter?)

Effective telling is one of your best tools as a writer, and one of the things that sets books apart from movies and television. Don’t be afraid to tell! Just remember to show when it matters.

Ready to practice showing instead of telling?

PRACTICE

Write about the way you or your character feels. Use only action, dialogue or sensory detail. Avoid using any feeling words, like happy, sad, tired.

Write for fifteen minutes. When your time is up, post your practice in the comments section. And if you post, be sure to give feedback to a few other writers.

Joe Bunting
Joe Bunting
Joe Bunting is a writer and entrepreneur. He is the author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller Let's Write a Short Story! and the co-founder of Story Cartel. You can follow him on Twitter (@joebunting).