Show, Don’t Tell: The Best Advice For Writers

Writer’s Relief
3 min readAug 4, 2022

Ernest Hemingway once said, “Show the readers everything, tell them nothing.” Following this writing advice of “Show, Don’t Tell” is essential for a good short story, novel, or memoir. But “Showing” your characters and plot through your writing isn’t as easy as bringing your favorite toy to Show and Tell in kindergarten. We’ve all seen how hard it can be to master the art of Show, Don’t Tell. Here’s the best advice for writers who want to improve their ability to Show more and Tell less.

How To Show, Don’t Tell: Our Best Advice For Writers

Talking at your readers will often lead to flat, dull stories. By showing instead of talking and telling, you allow your readers to experience the story through actions, dialogue, thoughts, senses, and feelings rather than through your summary of the events. These techniques will help you write stories your audience will enjoy reading.

Use dialogue. This is the easiest way to show rather than tell your readers what’s going on. An argument can reveal points of tension between characters, or a well-placed, witty remark can show that someone is inappropriately laid-back in a serious situation. Dialogue is a nuanced skill that every writer should cultivate, so here are some tips on how to write better dialogue.

Utilize direct and indirect characterization. Dialogue isn’t the only way to show your characters’ personalities. You can also give details about who they are, what they do, and their likes and dislikes through direct and indirect characterization. For instance, body language can reveal personality. If your character is shy, show their hesitancy to make eye contact or interact with new people. The same goes for showing how good or bad your character is. Someone nice may offer to treat a friend to coffee, while someone rude may push to the front of the coffee shop line during rush hour. Instead of simply describing your characters, using these direct and indirect details will make your characters more alive and interesting to read about.

Include all five senses. Let your readers experience the story with your characters. Immerse them in your setting by describing the smell of a musty, old room or the taste of freshly baked pastries. You can even take this a step further and…

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