Saturday 14 January 2012

Show not tell

Having just finished all my marking, much of which was creative writing assignments, I am aware that over and over again I have written 'show not tell'. Showing rather than telling brings a piece of writing to life otherwise it can feel quite flat. It allows the reader to be part of the story, to embrace it. We can all remember those stories in which we have become so totally involved we have forgotten the outside world exists.

When I am talking to my students about showing rather than telling there are a variety of tricks I suggest they use. I thought I would share them with you too.

1. Use dialogue. It allows the reader to experience a moment as if they were present. Let the reader hear the emotions through the language you use within the dialogue. For example:

'John James Smith, get in here now!'

You don't need the word 'angrily' in a tag as you can see it and almost feel it through the language already used. Dialogue can give your reader a great deal of information about character, emotion and mood.

2. Use sensory language. Readers can fully experience what you’re writing about if they can see, hear, taste, smell and touch the world you are creating. Try to use language that incorporates several senses, not just sight.

3. Be descriptive. We all remember learning to use adjectives and adverbs in school and it is easy when trying to be descriptive to slip back into using just those words. Being descriptive is more than inserting a string of descriptive words into your writing. It’s all about carefully choosing the right words and using them sparingly to convey your meaning. Remember often less is more. It is all about creating an image in the mind of the reader.

These are just the basics which might just help lift your writing a bit. But of course there are moments when telling can be just as applicable....but that's a whole other post!

This is the same song as I posted the other day but a really quirky version which I just love - thanks Jen for bringing it to my attention