switzerland I have been working my way through a pile of unsolicited manuscripts over the last week or so. Some have a lot of potential! However, many have one major flaw; the lack of “showing” and lots of “telling”.

It’s a shame, because stories where readers are simply told what is happening can make for slow and dull reading, even when there’s an interesting plot and some great characters.

“Showing” is more than a simple “telling” of the facts. It’s more illustrative and dramatic, and builds a picture in your readers’ minds, drawing them into the story and taking them closer to the action. As Anton Chekov famously wrote, “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

Here are a few more simple examples of show not tell:

Tell: It got dark.

Show: What was left of the coloured clouds sailed away with the last blush of the sun and the cold sky filled with stars. (From London’s Gone.)

Tell: It was an incredible view.

Show: The beauty of it delighted me, as the hugeness and loneliness of it terrified me. (From Deepest Darkness by Denise Hayward.)

Tell: He sounded cross, though they couldn’t hear what he said.Girl absorbed in reading a story

Show: He growled something they couldn’t hear, then snapped his phone shut with a harsh click. (Extract from The Treasure Hunt)

In the first instances we are told the facts; in the second we are given a dramatic picture. In the last instance, the word “cross” isn’t mentioned at all; we have been shown that the man is cross instead.

See what a powerful tool this is in fiction writing; to show, not tell!

Now it’s over to you – why not look through your own story and see where you can change some telling into showing? If you’re still not sure, I’d be delighted to welcome you on the Write for a Reason course, where we go into how to show not tell in much more detail.

Janet WilsonDo share with your friends, contact me if you have any questions, and leave your comments below!

In His Service,


PS The next course starts on January 12th – it would be a privilege to be able to help you on your writing journey 🙂

Show not tell
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