Questions tagged [showing-telling]

This tag should be used for questions about the [technique] of "Show, don't tell!" The goal of this technique is to allow the reader to experience the story through senses and feelings instead of only listening to the author explaining something.

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20
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13answers
4k views

How do I provide exposition on a magic system when no character has an objective or complete understanding of it?

I'm writing an urban fantasy series in which like many urban fantasy series there is a magic-and-powers system hidden from the broader world that the supernatural phenomena of the series run on. ...
58
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13answers
11k views

How do I write "Show, Don't Tell" as a person with Asperger Syndrome?

I have been told by my friends that my writing seems a bit blunt in the sense of I rarely practice "Show, Don't Tell" (SDT) in my stories. However, I personally find SDT hard because...I just don't ...
5
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3answers
2k views

Ways to show someone is whispering without using "he whispered"

I've seen a lot of advice that says you should scrap all non-'said' dialogue tags. I can see the value of this, but I'm not sure how to make it work in every instance. It's pretty easy to show things ...
0
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3answers
50 views

How can I show characters dealing with rejection?

From my own experience reaction to rejection is very internal. I'm having troubles with coming up with actions that rejected people do, that would be perfect description for what they feel. It would ...
1
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2answers
171 views

How to "show not tell" hero's thought process?

This question is inspired by a different one - How to communicate characters' inner states?. Although it may seem similar at first glance, I find the difference quite profound. My question regards ...
1
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4answers
142 views

How do you show and not tell an action such as "installed a virus"?

How do you show and not tell an action such as "installed a virus"? I am wondering if saying "installed a virus on his machine" is a description rather than an action. If so, is ...
1
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3answers
138 views

How to communicate characters' inner states?

This is a huge question, parts of which have been answered on this site. However, this is one of the biggest challenges writers face, and so I think the question's relevancy matches the amount of work ...
2
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4answers
130 views

How can I keep a spy character portrayed as competent and yet have interactions between protagonist and antagonist?

I have a character that is a spy, and part of their job is sneaking around and getting into places without being noticed. However, in order to have conflict in the plot, have characters interacting to ...
3
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5answers
768 views

How do I show that my character is intelligent?

I have a fantasy story in which the lead character is designed as your typical bland everyman protagonist whose purpose is to give the reader someone to relate to and ask questions about the ...
1
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3answers
146 views

How to write a scene about a main character who is crying?

I am writing a scene in which I want to show how my MC is still weak and vulnerable. My character is emotionally strong, but I am not able to describe a scene where she is crying in a room alone, so ...
1
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2answers
55 views

Does descriptive language in written fiction work as well as physical characterization in visual media?

Character design in visually oriented works (comic books, film, television) is often a useful shorthand for making characters stand out and be memorable in terms of their appearance. For example, ...
9
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6answers
719 views

How to stop writing from deteriorating mid-writing?

I'm not really sure how to describe this, but whenever I write I tend to start off okay-ish but as I progress it all just falls downhill. I think it's because I get too ahead of myself with my ideas ...
2
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2answers
115 views

How do I show a character is involved in Internet subculture without making them seem dated?

I have a character who one of their primary character quirks is supposed to be that they are very involved in Internet subculture. They're a programmer who spends a lot of their spare time on certain ...
12
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7answers
642 views

How to demonstrate an evolution of magic without it seeming like it is improvised?

I'm writing a fantasy novel, in which the story progresses over a number of years. Throughout the story, I want to display an evolution of the magic, much like technology evolves in our world. The ...
2
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3answers
178 views

Would incorporating a constructed language into my story this way cause confusion later?

This is part of the story I'm working on: “Imikagaw” a feminine voice called out as she put her hand on the back of the man in cape. “Usamiakusta ow ihsataw aw amas Enna “Uoyustih ag imikagaw aw nah ...
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5answers
160 views

How can I show a character looking around without just saying "I looked around"?

I'm looking for another way to say, “I looked around, until my eyes landed on a man.” I’m sick of the sentence “I looked around”, but it’s important that she does since she wakes up in an unfamiliar ...
8
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9answers
3k views

How can I show that a character does something without thinking?

When a character does something suddenly, how can I show this instead of just telling the reader they did it "without thinking"? Like: "Without thinking, I jumped." Or: “Without ...
4
votes
5answers
25k views

Showing Confusion

My first instinct is to always have a character furrow their eyebrows when confused because that's my personal first instinct, but I feel it's getting overused on my part. What are some other ways to ...
2
votes
2answers
545 views

Show vs Tell: Complex and nuanced emotions

The one writing guideline that has altered my writing the most is the Show vs Tell guideline. I was probably far into the "tell" territory before, but sometimes I feel like this guideline is ...
-1
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1answer
134 views

Am I telling or showing?

I'm having some trouble with "Show, don't tell" when come to writing, so I'd like some advice. I'm trying to highlight the relationship and personality between these characters, but I'm ...
4
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3answers
135 views

How can I show a character's emotions through a phone call?

When writing face-to-face dialogue, I like to give clues as to what the non-POV character is thinking and feeling through their actions. Not all the time, but whenever it feels appropriate. They might ...
2
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2answers
3k views

How to "show" a "Yes" head confirmation

How can I "show" that my character is saying "yes" as a respond from a question? The only thing that comes to my mind is Mike moves his head, confirming that he is okay. I think this is not good ...
1
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3answers
308 views

I abstain from using concise words in my writing, so as to "show" instead of "tell". Is this bad writing?

Instead of explaining this whole practice, I'll rather give an example. In a scene in my book, there is this character. This character is pompous and arrogant. I describe their gait shortly after ...
9
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4answers
360 views

How to help the reader wrestle through historical atrocities which would be considered normal to the POV character

I'm writing historical fiction which is set in ancient China. My MC is a historical figure who really did go into battle as a woman. Women in the ancient world were abused and mistreated. Males ...
4
votes
3answers
434 views

Recounting events in dialogue

In my story, the MC goes through a number of events with a common theme, each told in separate scenes. At the end of the story, he tells a friend about the things he experienced. Both the events and ...
12
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4answers
2k views

How do I show and not tell a backstory? [duplicate]

In my novel, Matt's girlfriend Ella gets kidnapped and Matt is held responsible by the kidnappers. As it wasn't for ransom but as a revenge of something Matt did. And then Matt storms into my MC's ...
9
votes
7answers
519 views

Is Jaime Lannister a "telling not showing" example?

Warning: spoilers of A Song of Ice and Fire. I was reading through this site that you should avoid telling what a character is by using other characters, example "Dan is the funniest person I know" - ...
15
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7answers
5k views

Is straight-up writing someone's opinions telling?

When I first learned about the "show don't tell" guideline, I believe it applied to everything. I have now learned there are many grey areas, like for example exposition, and that the most important ...
53
votes
15answers
13k views

How to make the reader think that the *character's* logic is flawed instead of the author's?

Following up on my previous question, "How to make the villain's motives understandable if his logic is flawed?", how can I let the reader know that the lack of logic is on the character's side, ...
12
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7answers
1k views

Should I "tell" my exposition or give it through dialogue?

When my work was being critiqued, one of the critics said that the exposition given away in my dialogue was forced and unnatural. Though, this exposition is crucial, so leaving it out is out of the ...
40
votes
16answers
11k views

How do I convey that a relationship is platonic?

I've been toying around with the idea of writing a novel. The story revolves around two characters, one male and one female, and the perspective will shift between them. One of the central ideas of ...
0
votes
1answer
107 views

What effects do the different types of flashbacks produce?

Different types of "Flashbacks" In this question, the OP asks what the different types of flashbacks are, which of them is used the most and which is the most effective. He doesn't really ...
3
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2answers
219 views

How can I emphasize the horror of a ritual without getting too overly graphic?

A person is born with a certain amount of mana, which increases with age and peaks at a certain point. Individuals are born with all the mana they will ever have, but it can be refined with practice ...
9
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2answers
476 views

Delivering sarcasm

Most of us who have spent more than a few days reading things and interacting with people on the internet know how difficult it is to convey sarcasm. There is no tone there is only the words on our ...
17
votes
6answers
3k views

Making him into a bully (how to show mild violence)

Joe is the worst. Nobody likes him, not even the so-called friends he teams up with at school, filling other students with terror. He's sarcastic, nasty, and a bit of a racist, and especially anti-...
18
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8answers
3k views

How to make clear what a part-humanoid character looks like when they're quite common in their world?

How can I describe an unconventionally part-humanoid character, so the reader knows clearly what they look like, while in a world where these people are normal and it's not unusual at all for ...
4
votes
2answers
523 views

How to creatively handle intoxication when you yourself haven't experienced such a thing?

Now I wouldn't call myself a true writer. I'm about 14 now and I'm currently preparing for my IGCSEs with a ton of subjects to juggle through and revise. English Language is one of the subjects, and ...
5
votes
2answers
161 views

How do you describe sentimental human physical interactions?

For example, Amanda just lost a battle in her life. When she met her best friend and mother, she lost it and started crying. The other characters comforted her with a hug, some talks, and some pats on ...
5
votes
3answers
146 views

How to show the same emotion multiple times?

I think everyone has heard the "show don't tell" rule. My question is how can I show same emotion multiple times without the description being the same. For example if my character is scared I can ...
17
votes
5answers
2k views

How can I convey an absolute truth from the author to the reader without a mentor character?

There are sometimes moments in works of fiction where the author needs to convey something to the reader without ambiguity. Let's say the situations around the characters get so weird that the author ...
6
votes
4answers
1k views

How can I write a street-smart character?

The book that I'm currently writing has a 16-year-old boy called Joseph Norton as the protagonist and it's implied via flashbacks that during his childhood he would frequently run away from his foster ...
5
votes
3answers
483 views

How do you show character reactions without making them do something physically that is unrealistic?

I've read stuff like these: she sat up. Startled. His face flushed (how does that happen in real life) He felt his neck muscles tense up, his temples started bulging, he started breathing more ...
1
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1answer
85 views

Unique ways to do an infodump for an isolated protagonist

Many zombie series start with the overly used hunting trip or coma to explain why the protagonist has no idea whats happening. This usually so the writer can dump the reader with what happened, saving ...
5
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5answers
1k views

Is writing big facts about a character's background good when first introducing them?

I hope this question is not mainly opinion based, I'm really just looking for a writer's handbook/source/acclaimed author saying this is either good, okay or bad. I think it might not be so good, ...
5
votes
3answers
223 views

How to express uncontrollable sadness [closed]

I am doing an assignment where I have to add my own chapter into a book our class read called Looking For Alaska by John Green. When: We don't know what she's feeling when she does it because it's ...
31
votes
11answers
6k views

Why are writers so hung up on "show versus tell"?

I write primarily science, which I readily admit can be very bland. On occasion I read fiction, but have found over the years that my tastes have changed considerably. Overly descriptive scenes leave ...
3
votes
4answers
277 views

How to write about characters and places you aren't personally familiar with?

What do I need to do, as an Indian writer, if I want to make British or Americans the main characters in my book, and make the whole story revolve around them in any other country? In general, is it ...
8
votes
7answers
592 views

How do I show the confusion my character feels?

I am trying to show the confusion my character feels (first person narrative) but am not sure what techniques to use. I have tried to achieve this using questions that arose through my character's ...
9
votes
4answers
1k views

How to make the villain's motives understandable if his logic is flawed?

In a story I'm writing, the villain has his motives for his attitudes. However, he is very mentally disturbed, which makes the logic of his motives be kind of illogic to other people (including the ...
4
votes
3answers
156 views

How do I handle English speaking where the language used isn't English but is translated in it? [duplicate]

I'm kind of having trouble with portraying one of my main character's English speaking foreign friend. My character and the country he is in don't really use English as the language they communicate ...