It’s Day 20 of our series, 31 Days of Writing Tips

For more posts in this series, click here. This October challenge has been written in conjunction with 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes, with each post written in five minutes on a one-word writing prompt.

Today’s prompt is: TELL



If you’ve been writing for a while, you’ve probably heard this advice countless times before: Show, don’t tell.

Along the same lines as the advice I shared in previous posts to use active voice instead of passive and to choose strong verbs, imagine your reader is right there with you in the scene you’re writing.

Don’t just tell them what happened. Take them there with you.

Don’t just tell your readers about a character; give details that will allow them to make conclusions on their own.

Anton Chekhov says, “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

So, for example, instead of writing, “The day was very cold,” you could try something like, “I couldn’t stop shivering.”

Instead of, “The man was very tall,” you could try, “He ducked every time he passed through a doorway.”

This past weekend I attend the annual Breathe Christian Writers Conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

In one of the sessions, Engaging Readers with Story in Nonfiction, editors Janyre Tromp and Joel Armstrong gave this same advice. They then went a step further to share a list of frequently used “telling” words that could probably be cut from one’s writing in favor of other descriptions to show the reader what happened.

I’m not going to share the exact list that Janyre and Joel distributed, but I did find some other lists online that might be helpful as you figure out how to show, not tell:

249 Verbs that Will Spice Up Your Writing | Jerry Jenkins

10 Verbs that Make You Tell | Writers Write

Show, Don’t Tell: How to Show Not Tell in Writing with Exercises | Self-Publishing School


What examples or advice do you have for showing, not telling? 



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