Dramaquill's All Things Writing

November 8, 2013

Show, Don’t Tell: It’s a matter of sense

Having just attended the Humber College writing intensive last weekend, I’m still energized after having spent two full days talking nothing but writing.

One of the great struggles many writers face is using too much telling in their writing. “Show, don’t tell,” is a criticism many writers receive but some find difficult to correct.

Joe Kertes, the Dean of Humber’s School of Creative and Performing Arts, facilitated the workshop and offered us some great insights into the craft of writing, including what I found to be a very helpful and easy way to think about *show – don’t tell*.

Instead of telling your readers what’s happening, use the characters’ senses. What do they see? Smell? Taste? Hear? Is there something to touch and what does it feel like?

Instead of saying “John stepped outside and it was very cold” (which is very telling), let the reader experience the cold the same way John would. Perhaps your sentence would read something like this: “John stepped outside and immediately felt the icy stab of wind on his bare skin. He pulled the zipper of his jacket up all the way, tucking his neck inside like a turtle, taking refuge in his shell. He hadn’t thought to wear gloves so he shoved his hands deep into his jacket pockets, bracing himself against another gust of arctic air as he made his way to the subway station.”

Now you can really feel how cold it is outside and so will your readers when you use the senses as a way to show, rather than tell.

Here’s a sentence for you to try. Feel free to post your *show* versions in the comments section of this post.

Stacey was afraid of the dark.

I can’t wait to read your *show* versions of this sentence.

For more information about Humber College’s creative writing programs, check out their website:  http://www.humber.ca/scapa/programs/school-writers

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