Photo by Valentin Salja on Unsplash

It’s a subconscious universal rule that for narratives to be compelling, authors must show not tell in their stories. While it sounds easy, it can be challenging to execute.

“Show not tell.”

If you’re a starting author, you’ve likely encountered this advice multiple times. It’s among the top repeated suggestions experts commonly hand out – a fundamental principle authors follow in storytelling. It’s a rule that easily flows out of people’s mouths: to show not tell, in narratives seems so logical. Yet, while it may seem so straightforward, translating it into paper can be challenging.

After all, when you’re simply writing a narrative, conveying or telling readers what is happening, how do you show it?

Wouldn’t that be impossible? To show a story through the words reflected on paper seems similar to asking a radio to show media or a video as it plays. It looks so out-of-context, which can make it confusing to starting authors. However, this “show not tell” technique is a writing rule that has existed since time immemorial. It’s used by authors who desire to write more compelling narratives.

How Do Beginners Show Not Tell In Their Narratives?

When readers read, they want to be transported to the world illustrated throughout the pages. This isn’t as effective if they tell what’s happening in the story. Instead, authors must utilize their words and descriptions to craft a narrative that paints a picture for readers to imagine.

This is what the “show not tell” writing technique is. Authors let their readers into the world through how their narration unfolds. The words they use play a massive role in how readers take part in their characters’ experiences, which is crucial in creating a riveting and powerful story.

For instance, in The Adventures of Nagel, author Wilma Forester shows her capacity for storytelling. From her fascinating worldbuilding to the mighty way she captured the essence of humanity in her characters, she showcased how well she grasped the complex art of storytelling. In her book, readers aren’t only introduced to interesting characters and the missions they’re about to achieve. Instead, they’re plunged into the exhilarating world of ancient Babylon, transported centuries ago through the book’s pages.

How Wilma has written her book should be what every beginner author must aim for.

Not only did she conduct extensive research about the culture and period of her story, but she also practiced the technique of showing, not telling, in her narratives. This is what made her book extremely captivating to readers. It has the magic of turning words into reality as they’re read and unfold in the story. Beyond accurately depicting the old times, the story also conveys a world that entices readers to dwell in – allowing them to spend hours reading without worrying about wasting them.

Tips For New Authors To Practice This Technique

To show not tell is what authors aim for. It’s what makes stories enticing, providing readers with a better experience. In a nutshell, showing, not telling, is prioritizing narrations that let readers experience the story. It’s not only telling them what’s happening but instead allowing them to see and feel what the characters are feeling. This technique is the best way to offer readers the escapism they desire.

It makes stories more vivid and descriptive, enhancing readers’ experience. However, while this is the primary rule of storytelling, it’s not as easy to execute. To this day, there will still be authors confused about what it means to show not tell.

Be In The Characters’ Shoes

One of the best ways to practice this technique is by stepping into the characters’ shoes. When narrating a setting or an action, do it how it would look from the characters’ perspective. What are they seeing? What are they doing? By defining the story from their lens, it becomes easier for authors to show the readers what’s happening.

When authors step into their characters’ perspective, they’re encouraged to use more active verbs that convey action rather than merely defining what the character is doing. By practicing this process, authors actively show readers what’s happening in the story through the character’s eyes.

Be Detailed With The Setting

A common misconception when authors hear “show not tell” is that this technique focuses on actions. But novels won’t provide a complete experience if they only depict actions. Instead, they must show readers the world they’ll be transported to. A story’s setting will enhance the mood and atmosphere and influence the narrative’s context.

For authors to capture their setting excellently, they must define it using their senses, detailing what the characters will experience through these. They can be descriptive with their sight, smell, and touch and craft a firm setting for their readers to enjoy.

Be Thorough About Defining Emotions

Another best practice to ensure readers experience the stories is by allowing them to live through the characters’ emotions. This means authors shouldn’t settle with describing what the character feels but describing in detail what’s happening as they’re feeling emotions.

Feelings aren’t only internal. What accompanies these emotions are either physical or mental sensations that authors must also bank on. This allows readers to be one with these characters, going through whatever emotions they’re going through. It will enable them to experience the story and how the character experiences it.

By following these processes, authors take another step further into storytelling. They don’t only narrate but let readers experience the world they’re building. It allows them to imagine and live in the story, enhancing their experience.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This