Show, Don’t Tell

Anyone who has taken a writing class has heard or seen (on their manuscript) the words: Show, don’t tell.

Effective writing creates an image in the reader’s mind instead of just telling the reader what to think.

Here’s a sentence that tells:

Mrs. Canter was a large, impatient old woman.

That gets the information across, but it simply tells the reader the basics about Mrs. Canter.

Try this in order to show:

Mrs. Canter heaved herself out of the chair and wobbled as she walked. She paced the floor and glanced at her watch over and over again. As she continued to wait for her granddaughter to arrive, she mumbled, “I said I’d be ready at three. Where is she?”

In the second example, I showed she was hefty by writing that she heaved herself and wobbled. I didn’t tell you she is impatient, but the words pacing and the action of repeating how her granddaughter was late in picking her up reflect that characteristic.