Telling isn’t always bad, but these help me identify where I’m telling and then determine whether or not it’s appropriate. It’s become a great resource for me. I hope it helps you, too!
I’m sure I’m like most writers when I say that I noticed showing vs. telling until I started studying the craft of writing. Even though I’ve been studying fiction writing for the past few years, when people critique my work they still find areas where I’m telling instead of showing.
For you non-writers reading this post, here’s a what I’m talking about. Suppose our main character, Ella, gets mad at her little brother, Miles. I can tell you what’s going on:
Miles viciously took Ella’s doll. She got mad and ran to her mom.
Or I can show you:
Miles ripped the doll from Ella’s hands. She screamed. “Mom!”
See the difference? When someone tells you a story, you observe it through the storyteller’s point of view. When an author shows you the story, however, you’re walking around with the characters, experiencing everything with them. Those are the books you read that make you feel the characters’ pain – you cry when they cry and cheer when they cheer.
Like most things in life, it’s really easy to notice when other people are telling, but I often miss it in my own writing. That’s why I created a cheat sheet for myself. These words usually signal telling: