Archive: May 3rd, 2010

MM: Show, Don’t Tell

mangled2

It’s one of the cardinal rules for writing, though you hear it more with fiction than non-fiction. (It applies to both, though.)

Show, Don’t Tell.

Instead of saying,

“He was nice to small children and animals.”

You write,

“As he dashed out the door to put out the fire, he paused to pat the toddler on the head and scratch the dog behind the ears.”

Instead of saying,

“We’re offering great deals!”

You write,

“Buy now and we’ll pay for a European vacation for you and your dozen closest friends!”

Instead of saying,

“The teenager was bored.”

You write,

“Charlie flipped through his pile of video games, dashing them to the floor in disgust, before flinging himself to the couch in despair.”

Instead of saying,

“This is the best tool you’ll ever buy!”

You write,

“This tool not only fixes computers, it will save your marriage, create world peace, and save the environment, all for the low, low price of $19.95.”

Instead of saying,

“Her dress was tacky and cheap.”

You write,

“Her dress was avocado green polyester that had to be a leftover from the 1970s, and the way it clashed with her “Autumn Sunrise” hair made us long for the sunglasses we’d left at the rest stop.”

You get the idea, right?

Good writing is a voyage of discovery.

You want your reader to discover the man is good to children because the reader sees it, not because you told them.

Really, it’s more fun for everybody that way.