Show or Tell? – Using Descriptions in your Writing

Do you show or tell more in your writing? You could just tell your reader that someone is crying, or you could compel a more emotional response from them if you show them how someone is crying.

Show or Tell Rain Drops on a Window

The Difference Between Show and Tell

There is a difference between, “Martha is crying.” and “Tears streamed down Martha’s face like rain drops on a window.” Similes and metaphors are your friends. Adverbs and adjectives can make your characters more relatable. Words like bright, joyful, ordinary, and intelligent describe your character’s affect. Words like pointlessly, tragically, and lazily describe your character in action. Did Martha walk up to Kevin or did Marth tremble as she uneasily walked over to Kevin?

I tend to incorporate most of my sensual phrasing in my editing process. I look for “telling” words and then I ask myself what it would look like, taste like, feel like, sound like, etc. Then, I can choose which of those sensory words to include in my book to make readers experience the character and make them more relatable.

When to Use Descriptions

Descriptions are necessary in your book, but there is a time and place for everything. As a writer, you have to discern where adjectives play in your story. Sometimes it’s easier to leave a sentence simple in order to let the story flow. If you just described a scene in great detail, then telling the reader that Martha is crying may be preferable. Remember to vary your sentences and above all, make sure the story flows. The worst thing you could do when writing a book is break up the flow of the story for the reader. If they have to stop and look up a word in order to understand the situation, they might as well close the book. If you choose the wrong word in a sentence that throws off the tone of the story, the reader may lose interest.

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