I wrote this piece, but have had quite a lot of problems with showing, not telling. I am wondering how I can add More SHOW and less TELL in this piece of writing.

The morning was warm. Just like Williams’s feelings. He got up out of bed and put on his tattered, familiar dressing gown. Breakfast was next, and only a short walk down the claustrophobic corridor. William sat down on one of the carved, wooden chairs and took a spoonful of cereal to his mouth. He sat silently, thinking about his upcoming speech. He was very nervous, but very happy, at the same. After all, this was his inaugural speech at a press conference following his election as Prime Minister.

        • *

Cameras and microphones were shoved in his face as William pushed forward through the humungous crowd, desperately trying to make an escape. "Is the Economy not important to you, Mr. William?" one reporter asked him. "Do you not care about people struggling to make ends meet?” He didn’t answer. Just kept pushing on.

Outside, the public was angry. They held up large signs protesting against some of the items proposed in his speech. They chanted a rehearsed song and wore tee-shirts promoting their cause. William’s shoulders slumped as the scene met his eyes.

After what seemed like forever, William made it through the crowd and retreated to the safety and comfort of his jet-black limousine. He sat deep into the soft, white leather seats and sighed, his shoulders and ego slumping. “So I take it the speech didn’t go so well?” Monique, his personal assistant, took a short break from scribbling down notes and looked up. William rested his head in his hands. “Yeah.” His reply came out woeful and muffled.

A loud buzzing noise filled the car. It was the phone. “Hi, you’re speaking with the office of Mr. William. How may I help you?” Monique answered. There was a short pause. “Mmm. . .” And then another. Click. “William, I have some bad news. It’s about Natalie.”

William nervously hammered the elevator button, despite knowing that doing so wouldn’t help the situation at all. He hoped that none of this was real. That it had all been a dream. That Natalie was safe. And his press conference had gone well. But as the elevators opened, he knew this certainly wasn’t a dream.

The first bed in front of William was Natalie’s. He rushed over and slowly lowered onto one knee beside the dull, white hospital bed. Gently, he reached out and ran his hands through Natalie’s soft, silky hair. Her eyelids gradually opened and the forced a painful smile. William took hold of her head and brought it to his. Their lips touched. He waited for a moment before resting Natalie’s head back down.

“Who did this to you?” William was filled with fury. “Five foot six.” Natalie whispered as she described her murderer. “Thin build. Dark glasses. Black hair.” A single, sorrowful tear crept down his face as he watched Natalie’s life slip away. Each of her breaths came out dry and rasped. Her pale face was lighter than the white sheet she clutched tightly in her hand, but this was almost unnoticeable under the crimson-red blood from the stab wound on her chest. If you were silent, you might have heard her quiet groans of pain as she clung intensely to what was left of her life.

Then the dreaded moment arrived. Natalie took her last breath. All was silent. It took a few moments for the reality to set in: she was dead. William took a deep breath, waiting for the tears to come, but none came. Just a deep feeling of emptiness from deep within his heart. Natalie was now gone. William slowly rose to his feet and made his way back over to the elevator doors.

William shivered as he waited for the limousine to arrive. The black sky above him was now darker than ever. The wind argued with the shrubs and trees behind him. They swayed this way and that, narrowly avoiding each punch the howling gust threw at them. Thunder rolled menacingly and lightning slapped its hands hard into the ground, leaving a blinding white streak of light in its path. The once quiet pitter-pattering of rain hitting the streets had increased to a deafening roar. The rain fell like an ocean thrown from the sky. It crashed down to Earth, splattered off the sidewalks, and formed instant rivers that raced along the gutters and overwhelmed the drains.

However, despite the violent weather and loud cacophony, William did not move out of his place on the side of the road. He stood still and lonely: the way he was going to be for the rest of his life.

A sound of snapping twigs and crunching leaves caught William’s attention. He turned around, expecting to find the press. No-one was there. He went back to thinking.

But a moment later, William felt an icy hand grip onto is shoulder, and then the round, hard barrel of a gun press into the side of his head. “You’re coming with me.” a familiar voice whispered in a threatening tone. William turned around. He a woman, about five foot six, standing behind him. She was of a thin build, wore dark glasses and had black hair. But the face: William would be able to recognize that anywhere. His stomach churned as one word echoed through his head: Monique.

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    Hi Mark and welcome to Writers. I've put your question on hold as critiques are off-topic here. You're welcome to ask a specific question about writing and use your own work as an example; we'd be happy to help with that. Please check out our short tour to learn more about our site. When you gain a little reputation (through asking and answering) you'll also be able to use Writing Chat, where informal requests for feedback are quite welcome. Thanks for understanding, and I hope to see you around the site. – Monica Cellio May 18 '15 at 23:06
  • OP not looking for a critique, they asked if it was too descriptive. ...but maybe that is too subjective a question... that would only really lead to critique. hmmm... rock and a hard place. – Bob May 19 '15 at 20:59

In my view, this piece of writing exhibits two things you should avoid.

First, consider the opening paragraph. It is a good example of "purple prose"; as you suspect, it appears to be far too descriptive and flowery. Let's break it down: "The sun peeked out", "he watched the first rays of sunlight grace the Earth", "the clouds become lit with a fabulous, warm light", "the lush mountain vegetation", "lit up brighter than a fiery inferno", "His nostrils filled with the sweet smell of fresh dew", "his ears with the sound of happy twittering", "autumn leaves in the street dancing around in the air like wild butterflies".

There's a lot more to pick out elsewhere, but hopefully you can get the gist: too many adjectives, too much flowery description.

Let's contrast it with what I consider to be one of the best opening sentences in relation to environment/weather I can recall: "The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel." This is from William Gibson's Neuromancer. He doesn't proceed to write sentence after sentence elaborating on the sky, the sun, or what the main character observed in relation to that. A single sentence that conveys everything you really need to know.

In short, avoid purple prose. Less really is more.

The second element that really stands out is show me, don't tell me. You keep telling me things instead of showing it to me. Example, first part of the second section: "The speech had gone horribly. He had forgotten some of his lines and made a complete fool of himself in front of the whole nation. Now he had an angry crowd chasing after him, and an impatient press wanting answers. It was all just too much."

Don't tell me it went horribly, show me. Don't tell me he forgot some lines and made a fool of himself. Show me. Don't tell me there's an angry crowd chasing him. Show me.

Let's say, like Ed Milliband (former Labour Party leader here in the UK), your character forgot a major part of his speech related to the economy. Here in the UK some journalists saw a draft of Milliband's speech that had the economy in it, but he didn't say it during the speech. (They found this later after the speech, but that's immaterial right now.)

Forgetting something like that is a huge deal. Reporters will be throwing questions at him like, "Is the Economy not important to you, Mr. William?", or "Do you not care about people struggling to make ends meet, Mr. William?" Maybe there's protesters shouting out pithy slogans. If you focus on showing these things, the reader gets a better understanding of what's happening: they'll see it went wrong, they'll see there's a huge angry crowd. The way you've written it, I know nothing of the speech, and nothing as to why the crowd were angry.

In reality, what I suspect you're doing is really showing me what the character knows (this is demonstrated specifically when you say, later on "he knew" and "despite knowing", but from what I can tell most of the paragraph is really a description of what your character knows about the situation). I highly recommend reading Chuck Palahniuk's warning against using thought verbs, and rather unpack your prose:

Instead of characters knowing anything, you must now present the details that allow the reader to know them. Instead of a character wanting something, you must now describe the thing so that the reader wants it. ... In short, no more short-cuts. Only specific sensory detail: action, smell, taste, sound, and feeling.

In the first part, you mention "He sat silently, thinking about his upcoming speech", something else that Palahniuk picks on, namely don't leave your characters alone:

One of the most-common mistakes that beginning writers make is leaving their characters alone. Writing, you may be alone. Reading, your audience may be alone. But your character should spend very, very little time alone. Because a solitary character starts thinking or worrying or wondering.

There are some good examples in the article to help you overcome these issues. As Palahniuk notes, you'll hate him for a while, but you'll become a better writer if you try follow this advice.


Yes, too many words obscuring the action, rather than driving it on. In your first section, only one phrase connected with me: He was nervous. The rest was filler without any emotional or story impact at all.

It doesn't matter what the morning looked like if some character was not looking at it and having a personal, emotional reaction to it. How does a pretty sunrise affect one's nervousness? I didn't even consider that question because I didn't know at the time that the observer was nervous. Try rewriting the scene beginning with 'He was nervous' and lead the reader through the sunrise and breakfast using every moment to illustrate his state of mind, or using his state of mind to taint the moment.

Similarly, if a character approaches a hospital bed. I do not want to know what colour it is. I want to know who's in it. If the bed was surrounded by fallen children's toys and deflated ballons, then my heart is in my mouth, and I need to know who's in it. If you tell me it's white and dull it's not suspense, it's just time-wasting. Likewise sorrowful tears, and round gun barrels. You can afford to lose some words there. Only use adjectives if they are surprising or illuminating. As well as 'round', gun barrels can be wet, hot, greasy or perfumed. Each of those tells a story, round does not.

Not all of it is bad, but lots of that text either needs to go, or be rewritten so that it connects emotionally. I like the imagery of the weather turning bad, but it needed to be tied into William's state of mind. Does he just stand there in the rain when it turns into a deluge, or does he seek cover? Does the lightning bother him, or is he deaf to it?

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