Create Vivid Narratives: Show vs. Tell

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I have experienced more than my fair share of feedback from writing professors and peers about showing more and telling less. When you tell rather than show the reader what is happening in a story, it’s like providing information and robbing them of the opportunity to construct a picture in their mind. We hear the words, show don’t tell, but how do we really learn to practice differentiating between the two in our narratives?

Telling can be one of the most difficult habits to break. The first step is to decide for yourself what it is that you want to accomplish with the story you are creating. This is an excellent way to get your mind thinking more in terms of showing scenes, creating action, and constructing resolutions within the narrative.

Create a Picture:

In my opinion, creating a picture in your reader’s mind is literally what an author is doing when showing versus telling. Here is an example:


Carrie felt like painting.


She found a blank canvas sticking up from one of the half-unpacked boxes. Carrie leaned it onto her easel, grabbed her paint splattered palette, and began painting a French Impressionist image of a jazz musician she’d seen playing on the streets of the French Quarter. An elongated ebony face, his eyes hidden behind opaque sunglasses, with full cheeks blowing into an exaggerated golden trumpet soon stared back at her.

Use Strong Verbs:

Showing the reader what is happening and constructing those images in the reader’s mind takes action. The best way to generate action is by using strong verbs, and, remember to avoid overusing adverbs. Consider the following sentences:


Carrie went to the table.


She made her way to the center table and grabbed a lukewarm beer floating in a mixture of water and ice from the galvanized bucket.

If you have trouble bringing a sentence to life, use the thesaurus and introduce yourself to new words and new verbs, the most vivid you can find.

Interrogate Your Story:

Consider the details when creating strong scenes and a solid narrative. Comb through your draft and ask yourself if there are too many details in a particular scene or not enough. It’s important to distinguish between areas in a narrative that require more detail to move the story forward and create clarity for the reader, and those details that add nothing essential.

Practice Makes Perfect:

There are a number of exercises that a writer can do to practice showing versus telling. Find short sentences or scenarios and devote a few minutes to expanding them by adding more detail. Practice the reverse. Find longer scenes and distill them down to the essentials. Join a writing community, go to workshops, and keep reading. Learn from those with more experience. Most of all, keep writing.








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About Author

I am an avid lover of creating fictional stories, poems, creative non-fiction, and recently, reviews, and blog content. Professionally speaking, I am new to the community of Inkitt Writer's Blog. I have a growing collection of cherished stories that really evolved when I began my graduate studies. I am eager to share the tips, techniques, and practices that have helped me create what I hope will continue to be strong, solid, creative work. I hold a Master's in Creative Writing with a concentration in Fiction Writing. I never shy away from an opportunity to step outside my own comfort zones to seek new and effective writing practices that help strengthen my own writing, and love sharing that knowledge with my fellow writing community. I believe that we all begin our journey from an ambiguous place. As we traverse the many paths our stories will take us, is where we will find our voice and a growing wisdom to continue evolving as successful writers. It’s the experience, the hard-work, sacrifice, and striving to create something better than the last story, poem, or article that allows the fortitude to continue progressing along our writing journey.

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