Five "Show Don't Tell" Danger Zones

This post by Diana Hurwitz originally appeared on The Blood Red Pencil on 3/5/15.

Showing is illustrated through actions and interiority rather than the author telling us how the character is reacting and behaving.

Telling often involves adverbs and adjectives. Look for bland descriptive words like: attractive, dumb, embarrassing, fabulous, fascinating, handsome, hilarious, mad, powerful, pretty, smart, stunning, stupid, tired, and ugly. Telling is fertile ground for clichés. Make it fresh.

Here are five danger zones to watch out for.


1. Action: Don’t tell us what a character does; describe what constitutes the action.

Telling: Dick worked hard.

Showing: Dick wiped the sweat from his face with his sleeve. He lifted the axe and swung: thunk, swipe, thunk. The chunk of wood sheared into small pieces. Each blow reverberated through his shoulders and back.

Telling: Jane walked quickly through the aisles, tossing in items without looking at them.


Read the full post on The Blood Red Pencil.