Telling vs Showing

Show and Tell

Sometimes Show instead of Tell in NOT better.

Show: Sarah locked her front door, and, glancing at her watch, saw she was late for her train. She broke into a sprint and arrived four minutes later, out of breath, as the train pulled away.

Tell: That morning, Sarah had sprinted for the train but arrived seconds too late.

Telling has its place, and can move the story faster. It can also reduce the focus on things that are unnecessary to the story.

Examples of transforming telling into showing

Telling: The temperature had fallen overnight and the heavy frost reflected the sun’s rays brightly.

Showing: The morning air was bitter ice in her nose and mouth, and dazzling frost lay on every bud and branch.

Telling: The taller man was a carpenter, complete with the tools of his trade.

Showing: A saw and hammer dangled from his belt and an adze was hooked into it, one thumbnail was black, and when he bowed she saw several long wood-shavings caught in his curly hair.

Telling: They stood close and wrapped their arms round each other in a passionate embrace, so that she became aware that he had been riding, and then that he was as nervous as she was.

Showing: They gripped each other and the tweed of his jacket was rough under her cheek. His hand came up to stroke her hair; she smelled leather and horses on the skin of his wrist. He was trembling.