We are often told by our writing teachers to “show” and not to “tell”… but what does that really mean? Think back to kindergarten, where we experienced “show AND tell”– what did we do? How did it feel? Was it a satisfying experience? Don’t worry, this is going somewhere!
In kindergarten, you brought in rocks or shells or maybe a frog. You told your classmates what it was and why it was important to you and they looked at it and nodded and maybe giggled and possibly fell asleep. You were all five years old, after all.
In the writing world, you do not have an object to SHOW to your reader, so it may seem like you need to TELL the reader about the object. As strange as it seems, you do not want to use your words to tell the reader about what is in front of you, but, rather, you need to use your words to SHOW them.
This is the question of writing. It’s still just words, I mean you are not painting a picture, after all. Well, actually, you are. You are painting a picture with words.
Here is an example from my nine year old daughter:
Telling: “I was very hot.”
Showing: “The sun beat down on my back. As I climbed the hill, I started to pant and beads of sweat dripped down my forehead like raindrops on a window.
Similes! Metaphors! The use of the five senses! All of these techniques will help you to SHOW and not TELL your audience. They will help you to paint a picture and bring your reader into your story. Stay tuned for more tips on using figurative language. And if you don’t know what that means… look it up!