Good writing: showing instead of telling.

That warm and fuzzy feeling you get when you read a good line. A smile creeps across your face and you read the line again happy that a moment has been captured so well on paper. I am reading Zadie Smith’s ‘White Teeth’ at the moment and have been astounded time and time again at the way she crafts sentences so beautifully. The sentences themselves are pretty simple but it is the words she chooses: I am able to create a clear picture in my mind of what the characters are doing, how they are doing it and why they have acted that way. The beauty of the writing is enhanced because she does not tell what I should be thinking, but shows. Now this blog post has been written for die hard literature fans. I understand that some markets and some readers prefer to be told. To try and start thinking about the reasons why the story is unfolding is tiresome and they prefer to have a sweet and simple story laid out. If you are that kind of writer this post is not for you. Both types of fiction have their advantages and this post is in no way a form of snobbery or a put down to fiction that simply tells.
So how do you show? I have found that when I am doing my first drafts of texts, it is often a lot easier to tell. The telling process makes it clear in my mind exactly what I am trying to say and it is therefore easier for me to get down the foundations of the story. I streamline the text and get down my ideas as they are. When it comes to review this first draft I then decide what is necessary and what isn’t. Most importantly this is when the really storytelling begins.
To show instead of tell is a process. The more you get into the story the easier it will get to write your characters the way you envision them. E.g. In your first draft you may have written something like this:
“Amy frowned at Peter disgusted that he could be so unfeeling when she had lost her job”. For laying the foundations this is great because you are telling yourself exactly what you want this section of the story to achieve. However in your next draft, you should have a clear understanding of your story so you can actually start telling it. The sentence above may transform into this:
“Amy walked past Peter and sat at the table in silence. She did not say hi. Instead of hugging Peter and asking how his day was she…”.
Create the scene instead of telling it.


About Plantain Periodicals

Hello! Welcome to the Plantain Periodicals blogs. The name stems from the kitchen moments I had with my friends at university cooking plantain and planning our lives together. I have used this space as a window into my mind and the way I make sense of all my experiences through writing.This is where I share those conversations and moments that happen inside my head as a young woman growing up in 21st century London. Hopefully you'll be entertained and also learn a thing or two. My main blog ad: My literature blog: NMx
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One Response to Good writing: showing instead of telling.

  1. Marcie Hill says:

    Thanks for the reminder. I was writing a draft of something and it was soooooooooooooooo boring. Once I started to add colorful words, the piece just blossomed; and so did my spirits.

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