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Creative Writing – Show vs. Tell – by S.A. Barone


Show Vs. Tell
by S.A. Barone - writer/artist

 What is fiction supposed to accomplish?

According to fiction writer and teacher, Michael Burns, “Fiction should forge an emotional link between the author and the reader.” 

Good fiction writing means showing readers what is happening in a story not always telling them.  A good way to do this is by creating vivid images that immerse the readers into a story.  Showing is essentially about making scenes vivid. Scenes that are important to a story should be dramatized with showing; however, sometimes what happens between scenes can be told so the story can make progress.  The objective is to find the right balance of showing versus telling, action versus summarization. 

The distinction between showing versus telling is this: telling catalogs actions and emotions, showing creates images in a reader’s imagination. 

Here is a very basic example:  Tommy was scared.  Tommy may feel fear but the reader won’t, however, consider this:  Tommy’s face went gray.  His breathing came in ragged gasps.  This example makes it clear that Tommy is very frightened.

Here is another example: “Hurry up,” Tommy said impatiently. This tells us that Tommy is impatient to leave, but consider this: “Hurry up!” snapped Tommy.  By changing the punctuation and choosing a stronger verb, this shows the reader just how impatient Tommy is.

Remember, verbs should carry the weight of the description.  It is always a good idea when wanting to make a sentence come to life, grab a thesaurus and fish around for the most vivid verbs you can find.

S. A. Barone

Shirley is a published children’s writer. She has publishing credits in Highlights for Children, Turtle, Children’s Playmate, Humpty Dumpty, and Chicken Soup for the Pre-teen Soul. Shirley  has won a Distinguished Meritorious Service Award from the California School Boards Association for authoring an elective program that was adopted in schools in the Western United States and in areas of New York City. To learn more about Shirley and her art, visit www.sabarone.com

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