Creative writing tip for Christians who write fiction for young people.

Welcome to the first creative writing tip of August! I hope you have been enjoying the summer, and perhaps have a bit more time for writing than usual?

Recently in the Write for a Reason course we looked at “showing” instead of “telling” and I thought I’d share a bit with you! Those of you who have been with us for a while may have seen this before, but there’s never any harm going over the basics. Hope you find it useful. 🙂

How do you spot “tells” in your writing?

It’s not always easy to spot “tells” in your writing, but one clue is the use of a simple verb. For example: The moon was shining, they were kind, we were curious.

dog and moon

There are other similar verbs, e.g. looked and felt. The grass looked green, he looked cross, I felt sad. All these are the writer telling a fact, but all can be changed to show your readers what is happening in a more dramatic fashion.

As Anton Chekov famously wrote:

Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.

That’s a good quote to remember as you write.

Another test when you are looking for “tells” is if you have used adverbs, e.g. he said curiously, they replied miserably. Instead of adverbs (words describing a verb), try to add some descriptive action or emotion. For example, you could change the phrase “Rin said curiously.” to: “Rin said, peering round the curtain.” You then don’t need to use the word curiously at all – readers can see that Rin is curious by what he is doing.

What do you think?

Here’s a writing exercise for you: You will need:

  1. An old novel from your bookshelf
  2. A highlighting pen

Go through the book, highlighting good examples of “showing”. It may take a while to get the hang of it, but the time spent will be worth it. You will learn so much!

Janet Wilson, founder of Dernier Publishing and Write for a Reason
Janet Wilson, founder of Dernier Publishing and Write for a Reason

Grace and peace to you,


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