There is a time and place for telling, even in fiction, however showing is much more difficult for many beginning writers, and yet reading what has been shown is often one of the things that inspires us to write in the first place.

As writers, we show when we immerse ourselves in our work and evoke that work, that immersion, for our readers, so they too can feel the people, places, and events that populate our worlds.  While there are many techniques for showing, the use of which will vary with what is depicted and the style of the writer, showing is essentially about details.  The details you choose to share with your readers should evoke specific experiences.

“He ran.”  That’s an experience, but it’s a very general experience that tells us little.  Unless there are details before or after this sentence, we don’t know who “he” is, why he’s running, what he’s feeling, where he’s running to or from, and how he runs.

There’s a big difference between this:  “Jimmy ran, feeling once again the pleasant burning of muscles well-used, enjoying the hard slap of the dock boards beneath his feet.  His stride rolled, as if he still perched over the rough waters between the Old World and the New, but he didn’t care.  He’d reached land, so he ran.”

And this:  “Tom ran down the alley, scanning the space between the buildings for a place to hide.  All the doors were locked tight.  Even the trash piled along the walls wouldn’t offer much shelter.  Tom heard the bullet before he felt it tear through his hip.  He fell to the wet, gritty road, looking up at Flycatcher’s slimy grin.”

Both start with a “he” who ran, but who they are, the reasons they’re running, where they’re running, and how they run are very different.  These differences are expressed with details.

Select the details your readers need to share your character’s experience, and you’ll come a long way from telling a story to showing your world.

About Stephanie Allen Crist

Stephanie created and produces in answer to a call from God to use her experiences and gifts to help others. Stephanie is also the author of and two books that can be found on that site. Stephanie strives to share her love, faith, and talents in an inclusive manner to help others who know spiritual pain and who know the bitter taste of the dregs of despair.
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