Show, don’t tell – Discussion #6

First of all, I would like to thank Rachael Hanel who the idea for a special sixth discussion came from. Thanks Rachael!

The piece of advice Rachael cleverly reminded me of was the commonly said “Show, Don’t Tell”.

Now, for me, I have always had teachers tell me to “show, don’t tell”, but what does it mean? I think for it’s better for me to find out what the difference is between them when it comes to their definitions:

Show: To cause, to allow to be seen; exhibit; display.

Tell: To give an account or narrative of; narrate; relate.


I don’t think that actually explains it, but I think it’s beginning to make sense to me now. To “show, not tell” is to display, almost convey that something is happening. It’s giving the reader the suggestion that something is happening without directly telling them.

For example, if you a writing about a person dying, you don’t want to just put: he slowly died. That’s telling (I think). Showing is by adding a bit of description to show this, for example, describing to the reader that he had a pain in his stomach would suggest many things.

So basically, “show don’t tell” is referring to suggesting and ‘hinting’ to the reader what is happening. However, it shouldn’t be so obvious that it’s showing. Hm…it’s a tricky one.

But for me, I will always ignore this advice. I know this may mean that I might destroy my chances of publishing a book by not following on of the most famous forms of advice. But I take advice which I can actually understand.

Sadly, that was the last post in the series! But I can confirm that there will be a second series! So send your suggestions for discussions in!

What do you think? Comment below! And thanks again Rachael!


10 thoughts on “Show, don’t tell – Discussion #6

    • Thanks for commenting! 🙂

      I agree, it’s important to consider. Coincidentally, there was an article about it in the most recent issue of Writing Magazine. They considered it important advice too!

      Cool! I will be sure to check it out!

      You’re welcome! Thank you! 🙂 I really enjoyed your blog! 🙂


  1. First, thanks for the mention! And ha, I was going to reference the Brooke Warner post that “Change It Up Editing” did! I saw Brooke’s post on Facebook and what she says is absolutely true. I agree that the maxim can be useful for beginning writers who may have a tendency to tell when show is more appropriate. But in memoir especially (to which Brooke is referring), there needs to be the “telling” in the form of reflection in order to give depth and resonance to the writer’s story. What did the writer learn from his/her experience? How did it shape him/her? Those things need to be “told.” Of course, they need to be told lyrically and beautifully.

    I definitely had to strike this balance in my memoir. It took me many drafts to get there. A press accepted it for publication, so I hope that means it worked on some level! I guess readers will be the judge!


  2. Hi Liam,

    Yes, it is tricky, I agree. Perhaps this quote I came across recently might shed some light on the subject (I love puns!): “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” – Anton Chekhov.
    It’s something I’m still struggling with, to be honest. Actually my current Nano project is all tell and no show. It’s going to end up being a massive full length outline of the real story, I think!


    • Glad you agree, it has always confused me…

      Thanks for the quote! I saw that when I researched further into “Show, Don’t Tell” and it came up, very interesting.

      Good luck! Good luck with NaNo too! 🙂


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