Show, don’t tell – The essence of good storytelling

The phrase “show, don’t tell” reminds writers to immerse the reader in the story rather than simply telling readers what’s happening. To show rather than tell is the first rule of writing, and for good reason.

Beginner writers do too much telling when they should be showing. But of course it’s not nearly as simple as that. Both have their value; the key is to understand their respective strengths, and use each to your story’s best advantage. Mind you, like everything in writing, it isn’t even binary, but a spectrum, from the telliest tell, to the showiest show.

Showing is about using description and action to help the reader experience the story

Showing makes the writing vivid and more descriptive. Showing makes a reader feel what is going on and helps readers experience the story by allowing them to interpret the descriptions of places, actions, and scenes. It makes the reader feel they’re in there: feel as in smell, touch, see, hear, believe the actual experience of the characters. When a writer uses showing in writing readers will feel as if they are actually there in the story, seeing the story unfolding. 

Telling is when the author summarizes or uses exposition to simply tell the reader what is happening

Telling, on the other hand, is flat and boring and limits the experience for the reader. It also tells editors and agents you’re an amateur. After all, if the very first rule of writing is show, don’t tell, then telling says you don’t know the first thing about writing.

It’s straightforward and does nothing but give us the facts. There is no emotion behind it.