The levels of Show Don’t Tell

There is a writing maxim that says that authors should show and not tell.

Here are some levels of exposition, from just telling and no showing to all showing and no telling.

Bad:

The hero finally understood what she meant and realized that he needed be more generous in life.

OK:

“You take from all those around you and give nothing back.” Mary said looking at him with her sad dark eyes. “You are gonna find soon that your times is running out, Peter.”

Best:

They left the restaurant in silence and faced the storm in the street. Mary said goodbye and walked away wrapping herself in her coat. Standing immobile in the sidewalk Peter looked at her figure disappear. Cold and wet, he stood contemplating the night when he noticed a man crouching in a nearby doorway. He recognized him. Through the window of the restaurant Peter had watched the man panhandled while Mary delivered her news. The man had stood unprotected under the rain for the whole duration of her break up. Walking towards the man, Peter opened his wallet, pulled out a $100 bill and left it on the man’s lap. “Happy New Years, pal.”

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