Telling and Showing

When you show the people, places, and happenings in your story, you invite your reader to feel, see, hear, hear, taste, and smell how it was to be present.

You can tell your reader that your uncle was a careful and methodical person, or you can show your uncle in coveralls, goggles, and work gloves at his smitre saw. You can tell your reader thatof your new apartment looked cold and sterile, or you can show the bare white walls and recently shampooed carpet, the uncurtained windows that looked out on a snow-crusted parking lot.

"The action speaks for itself," we sometimes say, meaning no explanation is needed. We know explanations are useful, but we know, too, that events themselves are often more dramatic and revealing. When you show the people, places, and events in your story, you invite readers into the texture of experience, to feel, see, hear, hear, taste, and smell that experience.

Often a single, well-chosen detail—close-bitten fingernails or a half-buttoned, black silk shirt—will show more than a full paragraph of explanation can tell, and will also be more convincing and memorable.

Activity

5.4 Look back over the story sketch you wrote for Activity 6.1 and note any places you've used telling rather than showing to get your point across. In each case, try to recall the concrete details of the scene itself. Write them down, paying special attention to any details that caused you to think or feel as you did about the situation.