How would you use "Show Don't Tell" imagery to portray a person who is watching something (an encounter) that makes him 'freeze' in his spot? All I can think of is: He is frozen in his spot as he watches on in utter shock.

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  • Is the scene from the frozen person's POV, someone else's, third-person limited, third-person omniscient? Depending on whose thoughts you have access to, you can describe (show) a lot of brain processes and emotions even if the person's body isn't moving. – Lauren Ipsum Oct 28 '15 at 11:18
  • The POV is from the person who is frozen to the spot (in shock/frightened) – J. Doe Oct 28 '15 at 11:22

Describe what is happening to his body and (since you said this is his POV) his thoughts and feelings about it. For example:

"He felt as if an invisible force was turning his body to stone. An ache in his lungs made him realize that he wasn't sure whether or not he was breathing. He willed his limbs to move but they stayed as still as stone. For a fleeting moment he thought he'd become a statue."

Alternatively, if you don't want to grant access to his mind, you can show he is frozen by showing it in his actions. For instance, he strikes a match and is about to light his cigarette when he sees whatever freezes him. He never quite lights it, but instead stares ahead until the match burns down to the fingers holding it.

  • I like to think of this as 'focusing on the emotions.' I find this is great for things like fight sequences, where describing every move can get boring. Instead, focus on the character. – Thomas Myron Oct 28 '15 at 21:23

I think the complete rule is "Show, don't tell. Except when it's better to tell, don't show."

There's nothing inherently wrong with telling. Sometimes you should just say what's going on and move on. How do you decide whether to show or tell? Pivotal moments might want to be shown, not told. Pay attention to pacing and the rhythms of your text and write accordingly. Read a lot, noticing where your favorite authors use exposition and action.


Also, try to tell with respect to the surroundings. A factual description comes to mind, just the happenings and the moments, and not the thoughts or feelings. The crowd rose to it's feet, the boy in the red cap still with his soda, and they all shouted in unison - " Go Team Go".

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