I'm writing a story and I need to describe a hidden young girl watching an attack on her village. How can I best show this instead of just telling it?
This is easy to do. Since she's a young girl, only able to see a portion of the battle, likely with no military skills, she won't be thinking of pincer movements, redoubts, or what style of fighting the people are using, which would require some explanation, she'll focus on simpler things.
She'll watch as a cloud of arrows come over a wall or barricade sending the unarmoured defenders to the ground screaming in agony as their clothes turn red from blood.
A fight just feet away from her hiding place will let her see the smith, always a gentle giant unless he's had too much to drink, cave in a mans skull and helmet with a hammer only to be hamstrung from behind and pierced by spears.
Her eyes will be drawn to the town hall/temple/feast hall, which is on fire with screaming women and children in it. The ones who flee are cut down like dogs or stripped and placed in chains, the rest burn.
Depending on how hard and brutal your book is decides the detail. Maybe she'll see a bit of this and then hide her face in the ground, covering her ears so she can only hear the muffled screams, tears and the roaring of fires.
I think that a young person's view is the best for this sort of thing.
I would use her inner dialog to describe the attack scene the way she sees it. By that, I don't mean accurately all the time, because from her hidden location she won't see the entire attack. She might not even be able to see any of it, if she is hidden in a locked cabinet or something.
But she would have some sort of sensory input and could imagine the rest.
Just imagine yourself in her position, seeing and hearing what she is, and then write her inner dialog. She can't talk to anybody about this because she is almost certainly afraid to make noise. I'm also assuming that she is alone.
If you want to add more drama, give her a baby brother/sister to talk to and try to sooth while having all these imaginings which might be worse than the actual attack. And keeping the baby from crying is very important because the noise could draw the attackers to them. Mainly i'm thinking that the dichotomy between what she is saying to the infant and what she is thinking internally.
Inner dialog can show as well as outer actions. And don't forget the physical manifestations of fear, such as nausea, shaking, and sweating.
I like the two answers already given. But there are options not yet on the table. But for my answer to make sense, you need to know what is going on. It's an attack on her village, but is this just bandits (then I imagine they won't be organized). Is there an invading army? (there might be some kind of show of force before they demand the village's unconditional surrender, and perhaps their food to feed the army). You may also wish to consider defences (protective wall, moat, a safe place for the non-combatants to retreat to?)
Having said that, let's get into options.
The little girl is hidden away with the other women and children. There might be a window of some sort, and maybe she finds her little brother trying to sneak a peak for whatever reason. Maybe she sees the people, small as ants, running around. Maybe she seems some of those ants stop moving.
The little girl is hidden away in her house. Maybe she's in a closet, maybe a trap door hidden under a carpet in the living room. Maybe she can't see anything, or maybe there's just this little crack between the planks of wood that lets in some light. Maybe she hears the clashing of things hitting against each other. Maybe there's a warmth in the air that should be there, or the scent of smoke and firewood burning, when she knows there shouldn't be.
The little girl is captured, and tied to a post for her captor to claim later. She'd be out in the open this time. She could see people fighting, see their shirts grow red. She closes her eyes, not wanting to look any more. But she hears the fighting, the wailing of familiar voices morphed by anger and terror. She could smell the houses burning. She can feel other women and girls being tied to the same post, each grunting from exertion as they try to free themselves or others, knowing that if these men take them...
Really. It all depends on how you want this to play out.