Monday, November 26, 2012

Is Your Writing Too "Tell-y"?

By Julie Daines

Show don't tell. It's a phrase we hear over and over again. But how can you know if you have too much telling and not enough showing?

Here is a quick list of signs that indicate you are telling instead of showing:

* Using too many adverbs. A few well placed adverbs are great. Less is more.

* Using inactive verbs. Such as to be, including was, am, is, are etc. "She was running through the trees" is weaker than "She raced through the trees."

* Using look or feel. A sign that you're taking the easy way out. "Angie looked sad" or "Mark felt tired" are both weak and telling. See my post on never naming emotions and using an objective correlative instead of telling.

* Using cliches. "flashing a perfect set of white teeth" or "steely gray eyes" tell us what the teeth and eyes look like, but not anything deeper about the character. Find a better, more meaningful way to show it. A way that makes us care.

* Too many adjectives. Just like with adverbs, less is more. Find a better way to write description. When in doubt, limit description passages anyway.

This list is from author Deborah Perlberg's book Writing for Young Adults.

1 comment:

Kasey @ Mormon Mommy Writers said...

I never fully understood this concept until I had a little epiphany about it one day. I wrote about it over at Mormon Mommy Writers-

This post is also very helpful- I’ll be sure to keep it handy!