top of page

never show AND tell

Updated: Oct 27

Back in grade school I dreaded show and tell. I never had anything interesting to show or tell except my pet turtle, Herman. And they wouldn't let me bring him in.

When we learn about writing we are always being told to "show," not "tell." Essentially it means that readers like to see the action or hear the dialogue as opposed to being told about what happened. We also call this "exposition" because it exposes the reader to what is happening or has happened.

But be careful because it's easy to do both, show and tell, and that is a no-no.

An example is when you describe something, then insert dialogue that represents that action:

Tom and Sally spoke about their day at the theatre and how they felt about the play. Tom was less enthusiastic than Sally.

"I just loved that play!" said Sally.

"Hmmm.... I'm not sure I agree. I think it could have been shorter." said Tom.

What purpose does the the dialogue serve here? None.

Either omit the leading sentence, or omit the dialogue.

I would omit the leading sentence because the dialogue shows me who these people are. As in real life, what people say teaches us who they are (or want us to think they are!)

And again, readers like dialogue. I bet you do too.

Recent Posts

See All

When I started writing fiction I was lost. Where/how to start? So many ideas! Snippets of dialogue spinning around in my head. Finally I decided I would just start and see what happened. And thin

1. "I remember(ed)" – We know you are remembering. That’s what a memoir is. 2. "I don’t remember..." If you don’t, we sure don’t. Tell us what you DO remember! 3. "It seemed" – "Seemed" is wishy wa

Inevitably in memoir workshops people worry about what their family and friends will think or say about their work. It's not only that we risk hurting feelings, it's also that people have different an

bottom of page