Nancy's Books

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Show, Don’t Tell

Show, don’t tell is advice we often hear at writing conferences, but what does it mean? Think of the phrase this way: don’t just tell me Bobby is angry, show me how he acts and what he says.

When a character shows emotions, the reader gains a better understanding of the character. As readers, we want to know more about a character than what he is saying or his actions. We can do this by showing the character’s sensory reactions, what the character sees hears, touches tastes, and/or smells. Show the readers with words what you want them to see, rather than telling them.

Let’s look at a couple of examples.

When I was writing my picture book, The Munched-Up Flower Garden, I wrote “James ran” in the first draft of my story. That phrase is telling. When I revised the story, I changed “James ran” to “James sure can make the dust fly as he pick them up and puts them down.” The revision shows a more detailed picture of the character’s movements.

Mary was happy is telling.
Mary’s face opened into a wide grin, and a laugh spilled out of her mouth is showing.

Telling Mary’s reaction is an uninteresting way of writing. The reader learns more about the character by showing Mary reaction.

As you read books and articles, notice the different ways authors incorporate show, don’t tell into their writing styles. Give it a try and watch your writing sparkle.

Next week, I’m interviewing, Sandi Underwood, a friend and author. She’ll give us ideas of how she incorporated show, don’t tell into her new book, THE SECRET OF THE AFRICAN AMULET.

For the Younger Writers:

Hand out a sheet of lined paper to each student. Ask students to write their names at the top of the page. Explain that they are in a word race. Each student will look around the room for words. The goal is to write as many words that they see in the classroom on the sheet of paper. Each word must be spelled correctly. Allow about 10 minutes for this activity. When the time is up, ask students to read from their list. Limit reading to about five words each. Collect the papers and count the number of words each student wrote. Add the totals and write the combined number of words and the date on a chart. Play the game again each week or month with an attempt to increase the number of words. Display the chart so the students can see their progress.

No comments:

Post a Comment