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Show, Don’t Tell

January 11, 2015

A very nice resource on showing characters’ emotions in writing; well worth a look, this.

Lynette Noni

This seriously awesome “cheat sheet” popped up in my Facebook and Twitter feed the other day and it’s simply too good not to share. It originated from a website called Writers Write:


As writers, we’re often told how important it is to “show, don’t tell” with our words. The funny thing is, it can be easier to write “tell” rather than “show”, but it’s waaaay better to READ “show” than it is to read “tell”. And really, as someone who spends a lot of time reading, I kinda hate it when I read writing that does more telling than showing, because it almost makes me feel dumb, you know? It sends the message that the writer thinks that to get their story across then they have to describe everything to the point that there’s no room left for my imagination to enjoy the creativity of filling in any gaps…

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  1. very useful, thanks 🙂
    A challenge of my WIP is that one of the POV characters is a ghost with no physicality – just sight, hearing and mind. It’s brought me hard up against the fact that the best way to ‘show not tell’ a POV character’s emotion is to make the reader feel it themselves. Easier said than done!

  2. No problem! And “easier said than done”, indeed; I don’t have a clue how I’d approach writing a character like that. I’m sure you’ll be able to crack it, though 😀

  3. Oh, this is great!

    I’m a visual storyteller so I work with words and images. This checklist will definitely help me in coordinating the two. Many thanks for sharing this!!

    Best Regards,

  4. schillingklaus permalink

    I detest reading all stories that show instead of telling; consequently, I will not succumb to your show, don’t tell ideology when writing.

    • Er, fair enough. What sort of stories do you like, out of interest? “Show, don’t tell” is a one of the most commonly-quoted rules out there.

      • Klaus Schilling permalink

        I like stories with a wall-breaking omniscient narrator that provides lots of cross references and expositions, comments, and exegeses of what is going on.

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