On Writing, Writing Prompts

Writing Prompt 17

Show Me

This week’s writing prompt was inspired by one of my clients. A quick aside to said client if they’re reading this: you already know how to show rather than tell (and you’re pretty good at it too) so I have no doubt that adding a bit more of that into your book will be a breeze for you—you’ve got this!

Back to the post. As a writer, you can either tell your reader something or you can show them. Briefly, when you tell your reader something, you’re giving them “just the facts” (e.g., exactly what happened) with little to no extraneous detail, whereas when you show your reader something, you paint a picture for them using description and detail as clues that allow them to conclude what happened. As an example, you can tell your reader that “Amy was upset” or you can describe Amy’s facial expressions and/or behaviors that indicate her exact emotional state as well as its intensity. All of the following are ways of showing your reader that Amy is upset, but each example also says something different about both what she might be feeling and just how it is affecting her. They can also reveal different aspects of her character.

Amy gritted her teeth and pinched the bridge of her nose as she silently counted to five.

Amy closed her eyes, putting a hand to her forehead, and swore under her breath. 

Amy picked up a glass and hurled it at the wall with a loud growl.  

Amy sank into the nearby armchair as tears welled in her eyes.

Now it’s your turn. I’ve provided a few practice examples for you below in case you need something to get you started, but by all means, come up with your own!

  • Think about ways in which you might show your readers/audience that it’s cold outside. Would you reference the outside temperature, describe the chill of the wind, note that there are icicles hanging from the gutters or that there’s three feet of snow on the ground? Or would you note that your character shivered in their down jacket, wishing they hadn’t forgotten to pull on a pair of gloves?
  • How would you show that a character is terrified? Think about how they might express their fear outwardly with behaviors, expressions, and verbalizations, as well as what thoughts might be running through their mind. Does their mouth get dry? Do they start sweating or hyperventilating? Do they scream? Pee their pants? Do they run or hide?
  • What are some ways that you can convey that two characters in your story are close and show the nature of their relationship? Consider how they might interact with each other both verbally and nonverbally. What are some things that they might do together that would show how they are connected?

As always, I’d love to see what you come up with, so feel free to share with me. Happy writing, gang!

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