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Critique Technique, Part 43 — Telling, Not Showing

Hand painting flowers
Image courtesy of PANPOTE /

“Show, don’t tell” is one of the oldest dicta in all of writing, although one prominent writer growled, “I’m a story teller, not a story shower.”

That, of course, misses the point: we illustrate or exemplify—in other words, show—a character’s emotions or attitudes by telling the reader what they did or how they behaved. Showing applies to inanimate objects as well, by describing the effects the object had on the other objects or the people or animals in the scene.

Showing, then, is a specialized form of telling.


The best way to explain this, of course, is not to tell you about these differences but to show them to you, starting with a couple examples about people.

Telling: Alice felt sick.

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