Telling is like shaking the reader and saying, “Here’s what’s happening.” Example: When the dragon approached, she felt scared.
Showing is giving the reader a visual of what’s going on, letting them picture it well. Example: The dragon stalked forward, smoke curling from its nostrils. The young princess’s eyes grew wide, and a tiny whimper escaped her lips.
See how the second example paints a more vivid picture? Now we have physical cues that help the reader deduce emotions or actions without TELLING that fact. If you’re telling the reader what to see or feel, they aren’t going to enjoy the story or get the point of what you’re trying to say. Replace the “tells” with “shows” and enhance your story and the reader’s experience in your world.
Here's the prompt we tackled: Write a story about Amelie waiting in a public place, about to meet someone for the first time. (You choose who it is.) She’s very nervous about meeting this person. Show her waiting, then meeting the someone. Do not use the following words in any form: Nervous, Scared, Upset, Anxious, Worried, Hopeful.
Show, don’t tell! Use visuals, any or all of the five senses, plus the setting to enhance Amelie’s emotions. Time: 12-15 minutes
Amelie tapped the bench with her long, manicured nails. A lump sat heavy in the pit of her stomach. Her heart had been racing since she got here. This would be the first meeting. The only chance she would have to get to know him before she took him home.
Would they like each other? Would she be able to live with him and trust him completely?
The scent of rain carried on the wind that rustled through her hair. Amelie shivered and ran her fingers over her chilly arms. Goosebumps rose on her skin when she heard the shuffling footsteps and the jingling of chains.
"Miss Amelie Tortan?" came a woman's voice to her left.
Amelie stood and extended her hand into the darkness. "That's me. You must be Jennifer."
A warm hand wrapped around hers. "It's nice to see you in person."
Amelie nodded and blinked, then adjusted her sunglasses. The pleasant odor of dog shampoo drifted up to her. She stooped and held out her palms.
Soft fur brushed her fingertips. A wet kiss ran across her wrist.
"And you must be Rusty." Amelie breathed deeply and smiled. "We're going to be great friends, aren't we?"
The dog barked and kissed her face. The weight in Amelie's stomach disappeared as she welcomed her new seeing-eye dog into her arms.