I have been told that my writing had the right idea and aim, but my words weren't strong enough to support that. I need some tips and tricks to help strengthen my writing. I've been told that I have been "telling and not showing". What does that mean? I need to know how to add more support into my words.

  • 1
    It's especially important to note that we also do critiques! So if you give us a passage that someone has called "weak", we would be happy to help!
    – Seanny123
    Jan 4, 2014 at 5:03
  • Indeed we do. Please see our critique guidelines for more information about how to do this, but the short version is that critiques need to have specific questions other than "how can this be better?" Jan 4, 2014 at 17:15
  • I think this only holds for fiction. For technical writing please tell, don't show. Jan 16, 2014 at 19:34

2 Answers 2


Well, this closely relates to the answer I gave to your other question (history first?). Readers love things happening. They love people interacting with other people. They love emotions. They don't want to read how many centimetres your protagonist is tall, but that his opponent has to look up to him, stumbling backwards, his eyes wide open in fear. Don't tell your readers the measurement, but show them the effects it has on the characters and the events.

Chuck Palahniuk, author of Fight Club, gives the best possible how-to here: http://litreactor.com/essays/chuck-palahniuk/nuts-and-bolts-%E2%80%9Cthought%E2%80%9D-verbs


Create an image

Make it visual. Strive for vivid images.

  • Telling: He sits on the couch holding his guitar.
  • Showing: His eyes are closed, and he’s cradling the guitar in his arms like a lover. It’s as if he’s trying to hold on to something that wants to let go.


Be careful with 'thought' words

You might want to avoid words like thinks, knows, believes, wants, realizes.

Your story will always be stronger if you just show the physical actions and details of your characters and allow your reader to do the thinking and knowing. And loving and hating. [..] In short, no more short-cuts. Only specific sensory detail: action, smell, taste, sound, and feeling.

(see details and examples in Nuts and Bolts: “Thought” Verbs by Chuck Palahniuk)

Be concise

Be as specific as possible. Avoid redundancy, wordy phrases, and unnecessary modifiers.

  • to be + nouns: What we found was a solution to the problem.
  • Strong verb: We solved the problem.

(and other examples here)

  • First example is a pretty bad one, since it's just purple prose without showing anything. Where is he? Does he lie, sit, stand? We don't learn this. Mar 6, 2014 at 15:24

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