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If you’ve ever written anything, you have most likely heard the big writing rule…
If you’ve never heard that phrase or seen it in red ink on your paper…well…lucky you.
Let me explain what it means to show rather than tell.
TELL: She was hungry. She found the last doughnut in the box. She ate it. It was good.
SHOW: Her stomach growled. Something caught her eye. A box on the counter. She slid her hand across the smooth cardboard of the box. Lifting the lid, she breathed in the aroma of fried dough, sugar, and grease. A tiny line of drool rolled from the side of her mouth. One lonely doughnut, sitting among the crumbles and powdered sugar of the rest, long ago departed. She raised the doughnut to her lips, the chocolate frosting smashed into her fingernails. As she bit into the confection, a low, satisfied groan escaped from her mouth. Devouring the pastry, letting frosting and crumbs and cream filling stick to her chin, she smiled.
Okay. So, that was silly and now we’re all hungry. Sorry about that. But, do you see what I’m saying?
Anyway, I am a stickler for “showing” rather than “telling”. Just ask the poor people in my critique group. It is almost always better to show than tell.
I was thinking about this today. And I realized that this isn’t just a writing principle. It is important in life, too.
I can tell someone all day long that I love them.
It is more powerful if I show them. Send a card. Bake them cookies. Listen when they’re having a bad day…or even when they’re having a good day!
I can tell someone that I appreciate them.
But it is more meaningful if I do something to serve them.
I can tell my children that I think they are wonderful.
But it will impact them more if I give them my time. Listen to their jokes. Read to them. Give them the gift of discipline (when they need it).
Telling is good. It gets the point across. But showing is better. It proves that what I say is true.
How can you show love today?
Thank you for that very practical encouragement to show rather than tell; you know, that is very powerful and I’m going to take you up on it! 🙂 Love you, Debra
Thank you, Debra! Love you, too!
BTW, I am kinda hungry now – for a doughnut – with sugar…………and chocolate frosting…………shall I give you my work address??????? 😉
Ha ha! Can you tell I was hungry when I wrote this?
And here is something to store away for March when I am starting the first edit of my (hopefully complete) novel. Even thinking back now, I realize I have done way too much telling and not enough showing. . . . . I wonder if that carries over into the rest of my life.
I will have to try and observe myself in social circumstances more. 😀
P.S. I didn’t have breakfast this morning, so my stomach is growling. I think I am going to have doughnuts for lunch. 😀
Nathan/Paul, that’s what a first draft is for! Get the telling out of the way and work the showing in while you edit. Do you have a writers group? You should get one, my friend. 🙂
I’ve seen you interact with others…I think you do a good job showing.
Hmm…I wonder if everyone who reads this post is going to get doughnuts today? I know I could use one!
I was doing okay until I got to “cream filling.” Oh, I so want a doughnut right now.
Peter, I want a doughnut, too. I should have written about someone eating broccoli.
Showing is a lot more words and takes more effort … just like showing in life … more work and effort. But it yields something better. ~Gail
You’re so right!
Susie, I’ve been thinking this week about how amazing this post is!! You are a hard act to follow with that “showing”!! WHOA…
Oh, you are so sweet, Myrna! Thank you so much!