Show, don’t tell. How many times have you heard that? How often do we scour our work for signs of telling to eagerly correct the problem? What exactly does it mean? Well, it’s the difference between:
Delilah felt excited.
Delilah’s eyes widened. She bounced on her toes. Her pounding heart thudded hard against her ribs, and her pulse was deafening in her ears as a grin spread across her lips.
I’ve gathered some external resources to help you show instead of tell. Some of these are absolute favorites of mine and I use them frequently as reference. Some also have links to purchase on Amazon.
1. The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi
I love, love, love this. It’s my go-to guide when I need help conveying a character’s emotion. It includes 75 different emotions your characters might feel. The beauty of it is that humans are complex beings. We might be feeling a whole slew of different emotions at once. Each listed emotion includes what that feeling might escalate to, or what cues might show that your character is trying to suppress that feeling.
2. Emotion Amplifiers by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi
This is a freebie for Kindle. It goes along with The Emotion Thesaurus and is exactly as the title suggests. It lists certain conditions that might amplify what your character is feeling, such as pain, exhaustion, dehydration.
3. Writers Helping Writers
This is Angela and Becca’s website. They also have other helpful books for fleshing out your characters, The Positive Trait Thesaurus and The Negative Trait Thesaurus. They have a lot of great resources on their site. Definitely check them out!
4. Resources on using strong verbs (The Writer’s Resource)
Strong verbs can really help your writing when trying to show instead of tell. For example, if you find yourself writing “She felt [insert noun/adjective here telling what the feeling is]”, look for stronger ways to show us how she felt. This goes along with using too many adverbs. Instead of “He wearily climbed the stairs”, try “He trudged up three flights of steps.” Strong verbs give the reader a better idea of how your character is feeling.
5. Grammar Girl : Show, Don’t Tell
This one is a quick read and will give you a better idea of telling vs. showing.
6. Scribendi: Ten Tips to Help You Avoid Telling Writing
Another good article on avoiding telling in your writing.
7. Writing Forward on Show, Don’t Tell
Another quick read, but still informative.
9. The Itch of Writing: Showing and Telling: the basics
Offers some great examples on the differences between telling and evoking emotion in the reader.
10. Lynette Noni: Show, Don’t Tell!
Great cheat sheet on some common emotions!