Vivid writing grabs readers’ attention and draws them into your story. So, in order to avoid the pitfalls of “telling” rather than “showing,” remember these points:
- Use strong, specific verbs, and avoid overusing adverbs.
- Provoke emotion through character reactions, don’t simply tell readers how to feel.
- Use well-placed details to bring scenes to life.
- Use expressive dialogue to show characters’ emotions and attitudes.
Consider these samples of writing. Tolkien’s Mordor in Lord of the Rings:
Show: “The gasping pools were choked with ash and crawling muds, sickly white and grey, as if the mountains had vomited the filth of their entrails upon the lands about. High mounds of crushed and powdered rock, great cones of earth fire-blasted and poison-stained, stood like an obscene graveyard in endless rows, slowly revealed in the reluctant light.”
Tell: “Frodo was horrified by the landscape – every rock formation reminded him of gravestones and there were foul smells and eerie sights at every turn.”
Show: His face grew as red as crimson. Sucking in a deep breath, he stood up. His right fist flew up and swung swiftly across the cheeks of his friend.
Tell: He got up and punched his friend in a fit of anger.