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When To Show, When To Tell...

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Joe Bunting has a post up today which I found helpful.



Show if:

It is a pivotal scene, like the climactic moment in your story.

You are bringing the reader into a scene and need to briefly describe the details of the setting so they can picture it.

It is a moment of great conflict, drama, or crisis.

You are presenting an important, dramatic conversation and the dialogue between the two characters advances the plot.

In other words, show if the scene is exciting, dramatic, story-advancing, character-developing, and altogether interesting.

Tell if:

You are mostly giving information the reader needs to know but which doesn’t advance the plot.

It is a non-pivotal moment in your story.

You are linking two highly dramatic scenes and need to skip over a less dramatic period of time.

In other words, tell if the scene is boring, non-pivotal, not dramatic, and mostly exposition or informational.

I include an infographic that breaks it down visually below. Scroll down for a creative writing exercise to put this concept to use immediately.



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15 minutes ago, Jeff Potts said:

I'd add one thing to that list:


When you can't properly pass information via dialog without it sounding cheesy or stupid.

Right. Telling is so much better than the "As you know, Bob" informational dialogue.... 

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18 minutes ago, Jeff Potts said:



There are those who think you should show and never tell.


I mean, I agree 100% with @Johne's post, but I think some people get hysterical with the whole "show don't tell" thing.

Variety has value. If all you had to eat was steak, or cheesecake, or whatever else activates your taste buds, it would lose its appeal if you had a steady diet of it.

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On 5/9/2021 at 8:52 PM, Tommie Lyn said:

"As you know, Bob" informational dialogue.... 

This is the WORST. I see it a lot in movie or TV show dialogue. Often disguised as "Do you remember when ...." I cringe every time! 

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