Showing Not Telling


As we saw in the previous chapter, one of the most effective ways to convey personality, age, setting and atmosphere is through the reactions of your characters.

This involves showing what is happening through a combination of action, reaction and dialogue rather than narrating or telling the story to the reader.


Writers tend to be avid readers, often with a background steeped in classic works of literature, many of which are written in the narrative voice. One example of this technique is Emily Bronte's classic novel Wuthering Heights, where the sequence of events is related in story form by one minor character to another.

It is perfectly understandable that well-read writers should seek to emulate this approach but in a modern context, the technique is very dated. It slows the pace considerably and by the time the scene is set, both you and the reader may well have forgotten what the story was about in the first place.

Moving with the times

It is a testament to the skill of our classic authors that their stories continue to be enjoyed today. One reason for this is that, despite the 'Let me tell you a story...' quality of the writing, many classic tales contain far more action and interaction than you may think. It is the narrative style that creates the misleading impression of a leisurely pace, not the actual content of the story.

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