Show and Tell Notes - Show dont tell not merely telling...

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Adapted from “Show vs. Tell” By R. Michael Burns Show, don’t tell! not merely telling readers what’s happening, but showing it to them. Use strong, specific verbs. Don’t simply tell readers how to feel. Use details to bring scenes to life. Let the Reader See and Experience It… Telling merely lists actions and emotions, showing creates images in a reader’s imagination. It’s the difference between the ingredients list and the decadent, gooey brownies. Bob felt scared. -or- Bob’ s face went ashen. His breathing came in ragged gasps. In the first example, Bob may feel fear, but the reader isn’t likely to. Like the first, the second example makes it pretty clear that Bob is scared, but unlike the first, it creates a distinct picture in the reader’s mind. “Let’s go,” Mary said impatiently. -or- “Let’s go!” Mary snapped. The first line merely tells us of Mary’s impatience. By changing the punctuation and choosing a stronger verb, the second version shows her impatience. Use Strong Verbs… Verbs should carry the weight of the description. If you’re keen to make a sentence come to life, break out your thesaurus and dig around for the most vivid verbs you can find. Daniel walked down the street. -or- Daniel ambled down the street. The first sentence gives the basics, but it’s bland. By contrast, the second sentence shows us a much clearer picture of Daniel and gives us a sense of his mood. He’s casual, in no hurry, maybe even a bit disinterested. All of that is contained in the more specific verb “ambled.” Compare that to the image created by the sentences and you see how much impact a good verb has. Each
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