In fiction writing, the technique of “show-don’t-tell” is a tool with the power to bring your stories to life. The basic idea behind show-don’t-tell is that instead of simply telling your readers what’s happening, you should show them through descriptive language, action, and dialogue. To do this effectively, keep the following in mind:
Use descriptive language to show-don’t-tell
Show-don’t-tell is all about using descriptive language to create vivid imagery and bring your story to life. Instead of simply telling your readers that a character is feeling sad, for example, you might describe their body language, facial expressions, or the way they speak.
Describe the action
Action and dialogue are powerful tools for showing your readers what’s happening in your story. Instead of telling your readers that a character is angry, for example, you might show them having an argument or physical altercation, describing the action blow-by-blow as it occurs.
Focus on body language
Show-don’t-tell is about allowing the reader to experience the story for themselves, rather than telling them how to feel. Avoid using words like “sad,” “happy,” or “scared” to describe a character’s emotions. Instead, let the reader infer the emotion from the character’s actions, body language, and dialogue.
Use sensory details to show-don’t-tell
The inclusion of sensory details—alluding to smell, taste, sound, and touch—creates a more immersive experience for your readers, creating a more vivid picture of the scene, helping your readers feel as if they are right there alongside your characters.
Don’t forget subtext
Subtext refers to unspoken thoughts, feelings, and motivations that are implied but not stated outright, allowing readers to infer a character’s feelings, motivations, and thoughts based on their actions and dialogue.
Show-don’t-tell is a storytelling technique that takes practice to master, so don’t shy away from investing time to perfect it. The more you write, the more you’ll learn about how to use descriptive language, action, dialogue, and other techniques to bring your stories to life.
In fiction writing, the technique of show-don’t-tell is a powerful tool that can help to bring your stories to life and make them more engaging for readers, creating vivid, immersive stories that will be sure to capture your readers’ imaginations.