Show, Don’t Tell – Invite the Reader Into Your Writing​

“Show, Don’t Tell” is some of the best advice ever given to writers.  In fact, it might be considered one of the Golden Rules of writing.

Don’t tell your readers what to feel, how to react, what to think. Paint a picture with your carefully chosen words, and their feelings will rise naturally.

Showing, rather than telling, makes the reader part of the experience and not just a bystander.

In his most commonly repeated quoted, Chekhov said, “Don’t tell me the moon is shining. Show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

You may want to examine your own writing for places where you can “move your readers into the room” rather than describing a scene as an observer.  Engage their senses!  Help them see, hear, smell, feel and even taste the elements of the story.  Not only will the readers be more involved in your writing, but you’ll probably enjoy it more as well! 

Let’s look at some examples of telling, then rewrite them as showing.  You may want to continue with your own rewrites. 

Enjoy!

Telling: Mimi was so angry! Her favorite doll was broken. She just wanted to get even with her brother. She decided to smash his favorite toy in return. When the new puppy ran in, knocking down her other dolls, she realized she had been wrong. She felt very sad about her unfair feelings.

Showing: Mimi was shaking so hard she could barely pick up the pieces of her favorite doll Arabella. Her brother Ben was a jerk. She stomped toward his red fire engine, hammer in hand. Just then, the new puppy bounded into the room and leaped onto the shelf of fragile toys. Mimi lunged, just barely saving Miranda from Arabella’s fate, then burst into tears.  “Oh Ben, ” she cried to the empty room. “I’m so sorry!”

Telling: Lucy was determined that she would dance again, in spite of the gloomy prognosis from her doctor. Every day she worked hard to regain her strength, and every day she imagined her future as a dancer.

Showing: Lucy’s legs felt rubbery and weak, and her lower back ached after taking the first ten steps of the day.  No matter what her doctors said, she would dance again.  She clicked her playlist, and the strains of “Swan Lake” filled the room. She imagined herself gliding, swimming, moving effortlessly.  Her upper torso swayed gracefully, her arms twirled slowly, as she watched in the full-length practice mirror.  For a minute, the mirror shimmered, then reflected a stage full of ballerinas, with herself in the center. She could hear the applause, smell the sweet incense of warm wood and sweat.  The aroma lifted her up, like a fragrant prayer, as she took a deep breath and took five more steps.

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Most Voted Comments

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8

Bait

It takes a real talent to tell a story in so few words. What was…


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6

Endure and Sing

Inspirational piece. Am glad you picked the rat to be the protagonist in your story,…


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6

Endure and Sing

Such a sweet tale - and with a good moral to the story. I thought…


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5

Endure and Sing

Wow! This is a good story! Really good to read to little kids, the moral…


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4

Endure and Sing

Hi Katy, it really does add an extra dimension to hear your story read aloud…


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4

Endure and Sing

In my neighboring country Denmark, we have the classical storyteller Hans-Christian Andersen. Your sweet story…


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4

Endure and Sing

A really nice one with a wonderful story line. I can see why this was…


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4

Endure and Sing

A beautiful story! I was reminded of seeing Paul Potts and Susan Boyle on Britain's…


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4

Endure and Sing

Your story inspired me to keep going no matter how discouraging it gets. At times…


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4

Endure and Sing

Thank you so much for the feedback! I pray that the young readers will be…


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4

Endure and Sing

Thank you for taking the time to comment and convey your thoughts on the story.…


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4

Endure and Sing

Hi Katy, don't we all feel like the rat in your story at times! We…


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4

Vows

I must admit it was the picture of the church, with its grave yard, under…


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3

Between Belonging and Dying

A very powerful story, Daniel. Your writing makes it easy to feel the reality of…


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3

Between Belonging and Dying

Oh my gosh, Daniel. Your story really defines the word superb. You make me experience…


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3

Between Belonging and Dying

A horrendous situation, more so because so many people find themselves going through it. A…


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3

Between Belonging and Dying

What an extremely powerful story Daniel, really well written and with an ending that had…


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3

Between Belonging and Dying

Daniel, this story is one of the best flash fiction stories I've ever read. You…


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3

In Memoriam

It's terrible to lose someone you love and accept that he is not a part…


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3

The Problem with Women

I think Carrie has said it all. We rest our collective case.  ? 


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