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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58
votes
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 ...
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, ...
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 ...
38
votes
8answers
4k views

When is it okay to "tell", instead of "show"?

One of the major mantras of writing fiction is "show, don't tell". Is it ever okay to tell? When?
37
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8answers
5k views

What is the balance between 'stating a problem clearly' and Hemingway's literary iceberg?

At a writer's critique group, one piece of feedback to me was: people didn't understand where I was going until the very end. They suggested stating something explicit at the very beginning so they ...
36
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8answers
11k views

How to show a character being bored for multiple chapters without boring the reader

When my protagonist is learning to use their magical skill, they must remain in hiding. Because they have not yet mastered their magical skill. My protagonist is bored from being holed up for so ...
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 ...
30
votes
7answers
7k views

How to tactfully inform readers of differences in the book world to the real world?

I want to write a fantasy novel, but there are a few issues that I have with the way that I should write it. One of my questions lies in the problem of how I, the narrator/book-writer, can inform my ...
25
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12answers
3k views

What does Show don't Tell actually mean

I am asking this question because I think we need a precise definition of what Show Don't Tell means if we are to decide if it is good advice or bad, or if it is a valid suggestion for certain ...
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. ...
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 ...
17
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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-...
17
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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 ...
16
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12answers
4k views

How do you keep a villainous character from being offensive to a particular group?

If the villain of your story is a member of a certain group, how do you keep the story from being offensive to members of that group? For example, one of the villain in my book is a WWII veteran. I ...
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
12
votes
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 ...
12
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5answers
2k views

Should you "Show, Don't Tell" when your character is recounting events?

"Show, don't tell" is a popular ethos amongst writers, and one that is very important to writing engaging stories. However, I'm in a situation whereby my protagonist is recounting an event from a ...
11
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6answers
2k views

Do my characters need to have different mannerisms in order to be perceived as different?

My editor returned to me with her initial critique of my novel, saying some characters were too similar, and that they had the same likes and dislikes and flaws. The characters she mentioned were ...
10
votes
7answers
987 views

Writing techniques or exercises to improve ability to show rather than tell?

Does anyone have any effective writing techniques or exercises that you use to help you focus more on showing the reader what you mean rather than just telling them about? I know I often find myself ...
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" - ...
9
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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 ...
9
votes
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 ...
9
votes
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 ...
9
votes
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 ...
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 ...
8
votes
7answers
594 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 ...
8
votes
1answer
228 views

How to write a discussion amongst 5 people while narrating a novel as first person singular?

I am writing an autobiographical novel and there is a scene where 5 people will be discussing a subject matter. Now, how can I write the discussion without making it sound like a newbie like I want to ...
7
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5answers
5k views

What are ways to "Show, don't tell" without simply listing bodily actions?

Tell: Andy looked angry Show: Andy scrunched his eyebrows together, he gritted his teeth and glared. His skin turned a bright red making him look like a raging demon. Are there other ways to ...
6
votes
8answers
3k views

Describing something that doesn't exist [duplicate]

I'm in the middle of my first draft for my novel, and I can't seem to properly convey to my audience the image I'm trying to describe. That's what I want to show my readers, but it's coming across ...
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 ...
6
votes
4answers
388 views

How do you use showing in animal fantasy?

When I read showing in stories with people, they describe facial expressions for showing (among other things). What can a writer use in an animal fantasy? I'm sure it depends on the animal, but ...
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 ...
5
votes
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
9answers
1k views

How can you show that a character is feeling amazing?

It's easy to show hesitance, fear or angst, you can have a character smoking 5-10 cigarettes in a row, linger for way too long, act out, or something like that. But how can you show a character that ...
5
votes
5answers
964 views

Is inner monologue a bad way to show character traits?

Is directly showing a characters inner thoughts and conversations with themselves too telly or cheesy?
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
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 ...
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 ...
5
votes
1answer
138 views

How can I dripfeed new concepts to a reader?

I have a character, who is part of a unique arm of the law, higher than the city guard. This isn't a secret arm of the law; in the universe in which my novel is set, the characters of my book are ...
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 ...
4
votes
6answers
5k views

How would a mature teenager behave?

I'm writing about a mature girl (15ish). But I'm not sure how she should act other than being polite. The way I think a mature person would act would be someone who doesn't swear, but some mature ...
4
votes
2answers
527 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 ...
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 ...
4
votes
3answers
435 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 ...
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 ...
4
votes
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 ...
3
votes
5answers
769 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 ...
3
votes
4answers
278 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 ...