Show, Don't Tell

September 05, 2019

The best piece of advice I’ve received trying to improve the quality of my writings: show, don’t tell.

When you look at a painting or a movie or a sculpture, you don’t want to just see something: it has to make you feel something. It’s the same with writing. Just merely describing what a character is doing is not enough, it’s just annoying to the point of rolling back your eyes back into your head.

Our brains contain something called mirror neurons, a neuron that fires both when an animal acts and when the animal observes the same action performed by another, which is why showing is much more powerful than merely telling something through writing: it forces the reader to get in the shoes of the character to truly experience the situation.

Instead of telling someone you’re angry, or sad, or joyful, or excited, show it by providing mental images. Remember how your body reacted, your thoughts, and how your environment reacted to you, then use your imagination to put it all together before releasing the tornado of emotions.

Sometimes, you might feel torn apart between going straight to the point and illustrating it because you don’t want to appear too verbose. The truth is you don’t have to choose, good writers do both.