Better writer tip #1: Show, don't tell in your feature writing

Posted by Oliver Hogue on 03/08/2013

Good writers use a mix of both show and tell styles in their writing.

‘Show, don't tell’ is a technique employed by a feature writer to help the reader experience the story through action, words, thoughts, senses and feelings rather than just summary and description.

The technique gives readers an opportunity to enjoy interpreting significant details in the text, rather than drowning them in heavy-handed adjectives.

If you tell the reader: “John is a fat, miserable old man”. While there is nothing terribly wrong with this sentence, there is very little the reader ‘experiences’. John is a fat, miserable old man. That’s it.

But, if you wrote: “John heaved himself out of the chair and spread his feet under his lorry-like frame. His arthritic knees creaked in objection…etc”

By ‘showing’ you allow the reader to feel and experience the moment. The reader can interpret the heaving; the lorry-like frame; and the creaking knees to mean he is fat and old, but without forcing the obvious adjectives upon them.

But be careful. Getting straight to the point is sometimes more important. Plus, a story written using only the ‘show’ style may quickly become difficult to read in one go.

Good writers use a mix of both show and tell styles in their writing.

So, keep your story moving by mixing sections with both elements.

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