How to Become a Successful Writer - Tip #30

May 16, 2016


30. Show...don't tell!


In college, I took a creative writing class at Sacramento State University with a professor by the name of Doug Rice. Being a writer himself, I paid close attention to everything that he said because he was where I saw myself being—a successful writer. I learned a lot from his class, but one thing that always stuck with me was "show...don't tell." This did not make sense to me at first because when you think of storytelling, you think of telling a story, but "telling" in the sense of when writing a book should actually mean "showing." When someone reads your work, they should be completely engrossed, letting their imagination take them away. As writers, our job is to describe exactly what is going on in our story so that they can envision it for themselves. It's a bit of a challenge, but remember, practice makes perfect!


A few ways to do this are to:


  • Use dialogue
    Dialogue allows readers to explore the scene as if they were there. Dialogue can also help with characterization, providing emotion, and accentuating mood. 

  • Use the senses
    Evoking the senses requires readers to recall their own experiences. 

  • Avoid adverbs
    Avoiding adverbs is another simple technique that will help turn your telling-writing into showing-writing. Look for any word ending in "ly" and consider expanding it to show the story's action.

  • Use metaphors
    Using metaphors is another great way to avoid telling-writing, but be careful to not confuse them with clichés, which are often times overused.

  • Don't overdo it!
    Good writing should mix showing and telling. Telling writing is boring, and writing that only shows has a tendency to be over the top, which detracts the reader from the story. Ultimately, your goal as a writer should be to engage your reader with interesting, fresh, and concise content.


Sasha Ravae

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