Tag Archives: visual imagery

What Does ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ Mean?

show dont tell

The writing challenge this month is all about ‘Show, Don’t Tell’, but what does it mean and how can you apply it to your writing?

Showing is all about creating visual imagery for your reader and making them feel as though they are there and connected with your main character. You can tell your reader a character has dark hair and pale skin, but how does your main character view this person? Connect your reader to you character’s mind by showing what they see and feel. Eg: A character who is attracted to these qualities might say, “Dark ebony hair framed her porcelain skin and her red lips were shaped like a cupid’s bow. It was like Snow White had stepped right out of her fairy tale.” A character who doesn’t find those features attractive may describe her in a different light, eg: “Her coal-coloured hair made her bloodless face appear whiter in contrast as though she were one of the undead. The only colour on her face was on her lips, which were caked in red lipstick in the manner of a lady of the night.”

Showing vs. Telling

Here are some more examples of the difference between telling and showing.

Telling: It was a hot day.

Showing: The sun blazed in the sky. Sweat ran down my forehead. The jingle of the ice-cream cart’s bell called to me.

Telling: A tall man.

Showing: The man’s head brushed the top of the door frame as he walked through. I craned my neck to look up at his face.

Further Reading

For a more in-depth look at showing vs. telling and further examples, you can check out these previous posts I have written on the topic.

My Best Advice for Other Aspiring Writers 

This post discusses:

–          Using the five senses.

–          Eliminating ‘was’.

–          Interweaving description into your story.

Show, Don’t Tell 

This post gives a more in-depth explanation of ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ with an example ‘showing’ paragraph like the one I want you to attempt for this month’s challenge.

Keep your eye out for the challenge sharing post at the end of this week. If you’re not subscribed, you can sign up for free (top left-hand side of blog) and you will get an email notification when the post goes live.

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Creating visual imagery

I’ve been working hard on my novel this past month as part of NaNoWriMo and making great progress. I am at a stage in my novel where my characters are about to enter a labyrinth so I spent most of yesterday sketching a labyrinth on a piece of paper to help me better visualise how my characters will proceed through the labyrinth in my story. I’ve found many times in the past when writing stories I like to sketch elements of my story to help me get a good visual image in solid form. In the past I’ve sketched the layout of the houses in a street, creatures appearing in a story and characters. I nearly always sketch characters for my story, I find it helps inspire me when describing them, because sketching them first allows me to consider all aspects of their physical appearance. As for things like street layouts and labyrinths, I’ve found it helps me keep all the details consistent when I am writing a story.

I don’t know if any other writers out there are inclined to do the same thing, or something similar, but it is just a little something I do to really immerse myself in the story I am writing. I remember when I was younger and I wrote stories I would actually dress my Barbie dolls up as my characters so I could give my characters physical form. I’ve also used the Sims video game to give physical form to my characters too.

In regards to using visual imagery in my current novel, ywriter (the program I’ve been using to set out my story) has a great little feature that allows you to include images in your character bios, location descriptions and even with your scenes. This feature really appealed to me and I have been using it to its full extent. I’ve had a lot of fun googling images I think suit the various locations/characters/scenes in my novel so I can put them into ywriter.

I guess I should stop procrastinating now and get back to my novel… back into the labyrinth I go 😉