Writing Exercise: Show Don’t Tell

From the Internet Hive Mind

Earlier this month, I shared a Magical Words on the need to tell instead of show, when telling keeps the story moving. Today’s writing exercise is flipping that advice to the more traditional Show Don’t Tell.

Carrie Ryan, in a Magical Words post from April 16, 2011, wrote about “The Reader Experience”.

Both Faith Hunter and Carrie Ryan’s advice center around the reader. When showing, not telling, a writer is immersing the reader into the characters and action. When telling, not showing, the “camera” is pulled away from the action, letting things happen offscreen or, at least, more impersonally. My attempt at the Writing Exercise for the Tell, Don’t Show advice has a person getting out of the vehicle, climbing their front steps, and opening their front door. Not usually something necessary in a story at all. Ms. Ryan gives several examples of Tell vs. Show examples for when showing is better than the telling.

Again the URL is . Be sure to read the comments so you can understand “Experience, don’t dictate.”

WRITING EXERCISE: Write something as a TELL instead of a SHOW that should be a SHOW, and then rewrite the same something as a SHOW. Finally explain why SHOWING was necessary in this case.

My Attempt

Tell instead of Show: I felt invaded, not only by the dead body in my living room, but also by the killer. There had to be a killer based on the three bullets holes neatly spaced across the chest black with crusted blood.

Show instead of Tell: My lunch pail and purse dropped to the floor, and my stomach dropped even further bringing me to my knees. I cover my mouth, gasping for breath, tears of panic teasing the corners of my eyes. Pressing my mouth, I push all emotions back inside. I force myself to break eye contact with the glazed sightless dead eyes, dragging my watery vision across the dead body with three neat bullet holes in its chest to my purse. Risking everything, I lift my hands from my mouth, take two big gulps of air and dive in with both hands, searching for my cell phone. 9-1-1. As I hit the second one on the screen, I realized I knew the body, which meant I also knew the killer.

Answering the question: As before, showing takes longer than telling, but the emotions are necessary.

Show and Tell Series
Part 1 – 8/3/2023
Part 2 – 8/22/2023

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