Today’s writing exercise focuses on the adage of “show, don’t tell,” a descriptive way of writing often used in fiction, that allows the reader to create a mental image of the scene being described and not simply accepting the facts being fed.
So, then, how exactly do you show? Take this very bland sentence, for example:
The red car drove quickly down the street on the autumn day, startling the woman walking her small dog.
Exciting, it isn’t. That’s a fine example of tell. Assuming the details are all important to your story—the car is red, it is autumn, and the woman owns a small dog—how could you show this, instead?
The car shot down the street like a fiery rocket, throwing leaves about like confetti in its wake. Her heart in her throat, the woman lifted her yapping dog into her arms and scrambled to the shoulder.
In this example, I’ve used a simile to show the car is fast and red, I showed the leaves rather than say it was autumn, and I described the woman’s physical reactions to show her emotions and describe her little doggy, too. The picture is a little clearer when it’s written more descriptive.
Obviously, every detail of your story cannot be written this way; pages and pages of unnecessary detail only bog down a story and bore a reader. But when you’ve got important details you want to convey, try to show them.
For this writing exercise, take the following bland “tell” snippet and “show” it instead. And have fun!
Mr. Thomas is a strict teacher. His class is very boring and the students never have any fun.