Write this Scene in Show Don’t Tell

Assume the point of view of one of the people in the scene or add a character of your own.


I climbed on top of the jeep, spitting sand out of my mouth. The wind spun another gust into my face, and I wiped sand from my eyes.

“They’re coming! They’re coming!” our guide pointed to the shapes blurred in the dancing sand.

Clearing my eyes again, I looked through the viewfinder of my camera. After tracking the herd for a month, I could not miss this shot. As long as the wind didn’t get stronger, I could do it.

“What a way to make a living,” Dean muttered, brushing sand from his grizzled beard.

Spitting again, I grinned, and the sand tried to burrow into my teeth. “I wouldn’t want to be any place else.”

Dad Sent Me: an Easter Story

I post this story every Easter. It’s what Easter means to me. I hope you enjoy it and enjoy a blessed holiday from our Heavenly Dad.


 I am trapped.

The boulder is heading straight for me. I can’t escape.  What good would it do anyway?

I’ve ended up in this exact situation before, too many times before, so why try to get away?

It’s my own stupid fault.  I finally get that.

There’s nothing I can do.

I huddle down. How much will it hurt this time? I can’t take much more pain. I am so sorry. So very, very sorry. Not that that matters.

I’m knocked to the ground.  But not by the boulder.

A man, a stranger, shoves me out of the way. I twist around to him. The boulder smashes into him and shatters into a pile of rubble, burying him.

I gape. I stare. Why would a stranger save me?

The pile moves. Flinging off the rocks, the man stands up.

I splutter, “B-b-but how?  But who?  But why?”

Brushing off the dust and dirt, the man gives me a huge grin and answers all my questions with one sentence.

“Dad sent me.”

Favorite Books for Show Don’t Tell

If one more person told me that writers needed to “show don’t tell”, I might have run screaming from the writers’ conference. I had heard that advice over and over again. I’d read it online again and again in a quote attributed to Anton Chekhov:

Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.

But it wasn’t enough for me to be told the advice. I had to be shown it. And more than that, I had to understand the why and how of the technique. I couldn’t pick it up from just reading books. I like a lot of stories that are more than fifty years old. What was considered “showing” then is classified as “telling” now.

Author/agent Tessa Emily Hall came to my rescue when she recommended the book Understanding Show Don’t Tell by Janice Hardy. I love the subtitle, (and Really Getting It).

Because I really did get it after reading this book. As Ms. Hardy explains, showing versus telling in our writing has become more critical because more and more readers are expecting the literary experience to match movies and TV Shows. She covers many topics that come under “telling” prose — point of view (POV), narrative distance, backstory, info dump, and more. What I found most helpful were lists of words that usually indicate a writer is engaging in “telling”. An appendix conveniently gathers all these word together.

Her chapter “Things That Affect Telling” takes the same paragraph and rewrites it in “showing” prose from first-person POV, third-person single POV, and third-person omniscient POV. She dissects the differences in the writing styles, and that kind of examination is what I really needed.

Another technique recommended by my friend Sharyn Kopf, who is also an author and editor, helps keep me in the showing mode.

Rivet Your Readers With Deep Point of View

I’ve written about deep POV before. The best way I know how to describe it is imagine yourself in Minecraft or another POV video game. You experience that game solely through your avatar. In deep POV, the reader experiences the story solely through the senses and mind of the POV character as that character lives the story.

Imagining how the character takes in information through the senses and what he or she thinks about this information or the train of thoughts it sets off keeps me from dumping too much information. For example, if my POV character is running for her life from a murderer, she isn’t going to think about how her older sister wronged her in high school. It may be important to the plot, but I have to work that in in a more logical place. Such as when she and friend talk about things they got away with in high school.

I found the chapter “Write Lively, Linear Prose” in Rivet Your Reader with Deep Point of View to be the most helpful. Sometimes, because writers know how all the action is going to end, they write it in the wrong order.

An example from Rivet:

“The hot, stuffy air caused my head to spin.”

If I was writing in deep POV, showing, not telling, I would describe first the character noticing something wrong with his head, then have the character pinpoint the cause. I am paying close attention to the order of my action, so I don’t put the cart before the horse.

Through the month of April, I will dissect examples of both “show don’t tell” and deep POV from my short story, “A Rose from the Ashes” to illustrate what I’ve learned so far about these techniques.

What are your favorite books for “show don’t tell”?

Time for Change

That’s what we need more of, right? In an effort to get more done on my novel, I will not be posting a writing tip on Tuesdays for April and May. I will still have ones on Thursdays based on my monthly theme. By June, I hope to return to my regularly scheduled posts. And I hope to make serious progress on A Shadow on the Snow.

Write this Scene in Show Don’t Tell

This month, the theme is “show don’t tell”. My pictures for writing prompts will all feature scenes that allow you to imagine yourself as a character in it. Or you can describe the scene as an omniscient narrator. Then write the scene in the “show don’t tell” technique.

Here’s mine:

A breeze ruffling my fur, I stare at Mandy. Life just hasn’t been the same since those two-legged pups showed up. Mandy hardly notices me any more. I appreciate she hasn’t let me starve and still takes me for walks, but it’s not the same.

She’s so busy with getting her pups to sit–something I can do on the first command– that I’ll just do some exploring on my own.

I head off at an easy trot. Nothing like springtime. Sometimes all the smells can overwhelm young dogs, but I’ve got enough experience to sort them all out and enjoy them.

Let’s see … sweet yellow flowers, clean grass, and–and–I lick my nose. Yes, meat. Probably one of those fat worm-shaped cuts humans like to eat with red sauce. But the pungent, sweet aroma of the sauce is missing.

I glance over my shoulder. Mandy drags the younger pup back to the log. I won’t be missed. Licking my chops as well as my nose, I lope toward the aroma of meat.

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