5 Warning Signs that you are telling, not showing in your writing

5 Ways you may be telling your readers, instead of showing

 1. Are you writing in passive voice?

Identify passive voice in your writing by looking for “to be” + past participle. Also look for sentences that end with “by…” phrases (Example: The cards were shuffled by the dealer.)

2. Check your descriptions

The baby had blue eyes and blonde hair – Telling.

The toddler’s eyes reflected the blue of the sky, and her blonde hair curled into tiny ringlets – Showing.

3. Incorporate Sensory Details – connected to #2

Use your five senses to describe in your writing. We rely heavily on sight, touch and sound. Make an effort to include smell and taste.

Example: The stale smell of cigarette smoke hung in the bedroom. Josephine rolled off the edge of the bed and planted her feet on the wooden floor.

4. Use dialogue

Let your characters words engage the readers – “Get out here this instant,” Jason’s mom screamed through the bedroom door.

You don’t have to write – Jason’s mom was angry. She yelled at him to come out of the room.

5. Be specific

Vague writing is telling, not showing. “Things,” “very” and empty words “weird,” “neat,” “beautiful” – avoid these. These words are not specific. Be specific! Choose the right word. It makes all the difference for your story and for your readers.


What are ways that you make sure you are SHOWING in your writing?


4 days left – Giveaway on Goodreads – win a signed copy of Josephine: Red Dirt and Whiskey. Ends midnight March 31!

photo credit: Olivander via photopin cc

About melindamcguirewrites

The young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat. ------ William Faulkner, Nobel Prize Speech, Stockholm, 1950
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8 Responses to 5 Warning Signs that you are telling, not showing in your writing

  1. rogerdcolby says:

    Yes. These are all tell-tale signs of poor writing. However, there are many best selling writers today who are breaking all of these rules. It is sad to see the degradation of the language. I do not know where it will take us, but it will be interesting to see. I, for one, refuse to give in.

  2. Roger says:

    I try to incorporate al this good advice. But it’s sad to see how many “real writers” are guilty of all these errors.

  3. DM says:

    Excellent advice again. I have a bad, bad habit of telling, not showing. I really have to watch for it.

  4. All great advice that every writer should keep in mind. Thanks!

    Laura Ritchie

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