Showing versus telling in story writing

Showing versus telling in story writing

The story writing experts suggest that writers 'show' and not 'tell' in their writing. What does it mean to 'show' and not 'tell'? 'Showing' in story writing means that the writer writes in such a way to invite the reader into the story. It means that the writer creates scenes and organises the scenes in such a way to stimulate the senses of the reader. The reader should be able to see, hear, taste, feel and smell as a result of the words you use to tell your story. You show the reader what is happening by including the following in your story: action, appropriate details, dialogue, reflection, a beginning and an end. There is nothing wrong with doing some telling in writing your story but you should try to 'show' much more than you 'tell'.
Here is a a very short story for you. To what extent does the writer 'tell' vs 'show'?  Enjoy.

The sun doused the earth with its heat. The wind blew pebbles down the grass-less hillside. Leaves crackled as they skimmed the ground. The wind tossed them about the yard as if playing with them. My friends and I sauntered from guava tree to grapefruit tree, from grapefruit tree to star apple tree, from star apple tree to mango tree. We looked for something exciting to do.

The donkey stood under the star apple tree swishing its tail and taking bites from the hedging. Sometimes, it wandered to the end of its leash, finding something to munch on along the way before changing course and going back to his place under the star apple tree.

Let’s go to the river,’ I said. Before I’d finished speaking everybody was ready to go.

Let’s ride the donkey,’ Marlene said. It was not the first time that we rode the donkey, but on flat ground. He’d always had a nice temperament and didn’t seem to mind carrying all of us around on his back.

I’ll take the back,’ Novelette said, her plump face crinkled with laughter.

We loosened the donkey and led him to the doorway of the house. It was the perfect distance from the ground. I mounted first and held on to the rope around his neck. He pranced around for a bit until I managed to settle him across the doorway. Marlene climbed on next. After much hesitation and laughter, Novelette scrambled on. The donkey turned to the path that led downhill to the river.

As the donkey started down the first slope, we realised that we were sliding forward. I held the rope taut, clamped my legs around the donkey’s midsection and leaned backwards.

Lean back!’ I shouted to Marlene and Novelette.

Whoo hoo,’ they screamed. At their screams, the donkey quickened his steps.

We made it intact to the second slope. The track narrowed. The trunk of the mango tree that stood to the left of the track sloped forward. It had been buffeted by strong winds and had almost toppled over, but it stood its ground. The donkey bounced down the track. The weight of my friends behind me threatened to push me over the donkey’s head. I braced backward with all the strength I had. Before I knew what was happening, I was alone on the donkey’s back. We’d made it to the bottom of that slope.

I swung around to see Marlene and Novelette clinging to the curved trunk of the mango tree, convulsed in gales of laughter. When they'd sensed the danger, they'd grabbed on to the trunk of the mango tree and swung to safety.

Come off of the donkey!’ they warned.

Come on,’ I said, nudging the donkey forward. I wasn’t about to give up that pleasure.

We continued on to the river, they walking behind the donkey and I, giggling and shouting out warnings.

There was one more slope to negotiate before we reached flat ground and I prepared myself for that. We made it down that slope and turned the corner on to the smooth grass. The road to the river was just below us.

In front of us, the undulating hills, in different shades of green, rose to the sky. To the left of us, coconut trees lined the hillside as far as the eye could see and to the right bamboo trees rose to the sky. The donkey loped along, stopping from time to time to munch on pickings from the brush at the side of the road. We climbed another mound. At the bottom of that slope, I was still on the donkey’s back.

The donkey had had enough of loping along, it seemed. He started a canter. I bounced along on its back. Marlene and Novelette ran along behind us. The donkey moved into a gallop. I held on to the rope around his neck and did my best to stay with him. By that time, Marlene and Novelette were laughing and screaming and chasing us.

Hold on, Janey! Hold on!’ I held on with all my might.

The donkey reached the path leading down to the river and braked. It was a miracle that I remained seated on his back. It started to dance round and round in circles, as if he were in a dressage contest, baring its teeth as he did so. I held on to the rope, my legs clamped to his flanks.

He reared. I stayed put. He didn’t listen to our pleas to behave himself. When he realised that he couldn’t dislodge me, he calmed down. I seized that opportunity to jump off his back and gave him a wide berth. The donkey shook himself, ignored me and went to munch on the grass that lined the roadside.

You good,’ said Novelette, obviously in awe of the prowess I’d displayed on the donkey.

Good!’ Marlene scoffed. ‘You coulda dead!’

Novelette laughed.

We tethered the donkey to a tree by the side of the road and went to frolic to our heart’s content in the cool waters of the river.

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About the Author

Janette B. Fuller is a ghost writer and author of four books. 

When you are ready to write your story and/or after you have written your story, make contact with her at She'll help you write your best story by helping you arrange your thoughts and/or edit your work. Check out her books here


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