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  • Writer's pictureDonna Carbone

Showing vs. Telling: When are they appropriate? Episode 009

Updated: Oct 12, 2023

Authors Talking Bookish with hosts Hope Gibbs and Donna Norman-Carbone

You’ve heard the old adage: Show NOT Tell. Is it true? What are the benefits to showing not telling in writing and when it is appropriate to tell? We’ll provide insight into the differences between showing vs. telling and advice regarding when one is most appropriate.


Showing- when a writer slows down a scene to provide clues as to action and concrete description

Telling- providing exposition by abridging time or details thus providing a summary

Examples of each

What matters most to the story?

  • The benefits of showing

  • The benefits of telling

  • Effects of showing vs. telling


“Show and Tell: The Key to Engaging Meaningful Storytelling,” Heather Davis, Launch Pad: The Countdown to Writing Your Book, ED. Emma Dhesi and Grace Sammon

“Don’t Tell, But Show” and “Be Specific,” Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg

“Show Don’t Tell,” Everybody Writes, Ann Handley


Take a piece of writing you’ve done and two highlighters (3-5 pages for this exercise, anywhere in your draft). Highlight where you show with one color and highlight where you tell with the other color. Think about the goals for this scene and what really matters.Is there something you should have shown instead of told? Is there something you should have told instead of shown? Take a look at the balance of both within the scene. How does it affect the pacing?

Hope Gibbs, author of Where the Grass Grows Blue

Donna Norman-Carbone, author of All That is Sacred

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