See How to Show More in Writing

I try to avoid using any variation of is because that turns a sentence into telling instead of showing. Is and was appear less in my writing, but they slip (the little stinkers) in on occasion. These tips come from my journey to do more showing and less telling in my writing.

Before we dive into the tips, I notice that popular non-fiction writing tends to use fiction-style writing by telling a story or using a theme. It makes the content more gripping and less drudgey (I didn’t want to say “dry” — that’s another thing I work to avoid… using common verbs and cliches).

Use specific active verbs that tell what’s happening: poke, race, bounce, spring.

Use of quotes lets the reader “hear.”

Describe a person’s reaction to let the reader “feel” the emotions. “Her jaw fell while her forehead crinkled as the whites of her eyes appear.”

Use pictures with precise words.

Avoid bland and redundant phrases. “She is in shock.” Does the phrase above sound better? OK, so we often hear of jaws dropping or falling and foreheads crinkling. I just couldn’t come up with a different way to say it when I needed it.

Use the five senses to create an image. The nose knows, the eyes see, the ears hear, the fingers feel, the mouth tastes.

Describe a person’s actions instead of telling the readers what s/he feels.

She pushes her chair back while feeling the stiffness and pain on one side of her back. As she struggles to stand, her voice lets out a groan ending with a crackle that almost sounds like a cry. With every slow step she takes, she urges her back to straighten a little more.

What do you think of this?

What other tips do you apply to captivate readers?

9 thoughts on “See How to Show More in Writing”

  1. Haha! Amy, that’s OK — thanks for the offer. I know you don’t corner the ducky market — but I gotta come up with something on my own. First, I need to buy some creative juice as I am very low on it lately.

    Sometimes “it is what it is” and you just hafta use is. 🙂

  2. @Amy Sure, put the pressure on! 🙂

    @Brad I forget too. It took my son’s school papers to make me remember. We just have too many things to learn and remember. So I try to pick one thing to learn and work at it. When I have it down, then I move on to the next thing.

  3. What a great post! I’ve been chided many times (by my mother – of all people) for using passive verbs in my writing instead of active verbs. I like how you go about explaining this – it inspires me to write more actively, and not just because I think my mom won’t like it. Hehe. Thanks!


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