Show Me; Don't Tell Me

I seldom wear belts, but when I do, I find myself meticulously guiding my fingers along my waistline so as not to miss a loop. I do this because of an English class I took some time in elementary or high school. The memory of the class, teacher, and even my age at the time is foggy, but I remember the lesson: A character in the book or poem had missed a belt loop when getting dressed that morning.

That told us that the character was in a rush or was distracted or had their mind on other things. The author didn’t tell us the character was tired and stressed. They showed us. And thus my young writer’s mind came alive with the idea of showing, not telling.

You can tell someone the character loves to read. Or you can have them carry a book with them to doctor’s offices, coffee shops, and the local park. Maybe their favorite place in the world is the library and they belong to multiple book clubs.

You can tell someone the two leads are best friends. Or you can show a series of flashbacks and freeze frames of the leads going out for ice cream, dancing together at karaoke night, riding bikes through a country path, or doing whatever is happening in the picture below.

You can tell someone it’s a rainy day. Or you can show the soppy umbrellas leant against the office door and the glasses-wearing colleagues searching for a dry piece of fabric to clean their lens. You can show frizzy hair and squeaky shoes and runny mascara.

You can tell someone you love them. Or you can show them.

And if you can’t figure out how to do the latter. Maybe you don’t have the right to say the former.

Love always,