Most Important Thing in Writing
The most important lesson any author can learn, the most important ability any author can have is to show rather than tell.Which works better?
Telling: Evangeline was a total badass when she drank.
Showing: Evangeline downed the shot of whisky in a gulp and threw the glass into her ex-husband's face.
With the second one, we see through action what Evangeline is like rather than letting the writer explain it to us. Readers need to be treated as adults who can figure these things out for themselves.Showing rather than telling allows the reader through your character to feel the texture of the story. Showing rather than telling brings your writing to life and makes your writing good.
How to ShowUse the senses:
Telling: I felt seasick
Showing: My stomach roiled. I reached out a hand to steady myself. The cold metal of the railing stung my fingers and the icy ocean splashed over my head, choking me.
Telling: Louann didn't think she would ever see him again.
Showing: "Have a nice trip." Tears weighed Louann's eyes down and she watched his cowboy boots shuffle through the dust. "I'll make a pie dinner. You'll be back for dinner, won't you?"
How to Avoid Telling Rather than ShowingSearch your document for adverbs and get rid of any you can. When a writer says "She stared at him mutinously," she's not letting us know how the character looked, at least not in any way we can picture and the reader is being told how to think about the character. Another search you can do is for the word "felt." Unless the character is a hatmaker, these are place where you are telling us someone's emotions rather than showing us. When you've spellchecked these, go through on another editing pass. Look at passages and ask "is it alive"? Now that you know what to look for, you can see what is telling and what is showing.
Amanda Albright Still, selected by readers as one of Houston's Favorite Authors, is a compulsive reader who enjoys just about every genre and writes the Galveston Hurricane Mystery Series, ECHOES OF THE STORM, BRIDES OF THE STORM, and SECRETS OF THE STORM (out later this year). She When not writing, her husband, college-age daughters, and she toil at restoring a Victorian house on Galveston where she believes those old walls have stories to tell.