It didn’t take long after starting to write my novel for me to come across the phrase “Show, Don’t tell.” As the go-to piece of advice for new and aspiring writers, I’m sure most of you have heard it as well. Why is it such popular advice? Well, because it is damn good advice!
You know that feeling of being completely submerged in a story? Where you are completely and utterly involved in the scene, and feel you understand all the nuance and subtleties going on in the story? That spark which makes reading addictive? That comes from showing rather than telling.
Experienced writers avoid telling the reader something that they could show them instead.
You could tell a reader that your main character has recently been in a fight or you could describe the colour of their bruises.
You could explain that someone is an alcoholic or your could describe the stale smell of alcohol on their clothes and the red spider veins littering their nose.
You could say that someone walked through the forest or you could describe the sound of the autumn leaves crunching underfoot and the towering trees that span for miles in all directions.
Which versions sound better to you?
It takes more effort, more imagination and more patience but the results are worth it. No one wants to read a flat, lifeless story where they are told what to think. We want to feel, smell, touch and experience a story, we want to be given a chance to live it, not just read about it.