Show, Don’t Tell: Tell, Then Show

Welcome to the last post of my “Show, Don’t Tell” series.

This post is going to focus on a technique I have seen multiple times, especially in children’s and middle grade books. Sometimes, some authors will tell something first before they show it. It goes something like this:

Mary Jane was the meanest girl ever.

She burst through the school doors, hitting them open so hard that they almost ripped off their hinges. As she stormed down the hall, she shoved classmates out of her way and into the walls. She reached her locker, but two people stood in front of it.

“Out of my way, losers!” she yelled and threw her backpack at them.

So in the example, the telling is acting as a hook or an introduction to grab the reader. However, the telling doesn’t last long. There is more showing, and if you remember from my introduction, showing instead of telling is about showing MORE than telling. If we didn’t have the showing, that telling line wouldn’t have much to it. It’s the showing that keeps the reader engaged and brings the character to life.

The tell, then show technique can do more than just introduce a character. It can introduce a place:

The DownStairs is the worst place for all those unarmed.

[Begin scene]

It can introduce a scene:

Bob knew today would be the best day ever.

Boy, was he wrong.

[Begin scene]

The telling hook can introduce anything. The point is, the telling begins the story, and then you show the rest. You can vice verse it and show, then tell, using the telling as a conclusion. Just remember that the telling needs the showing. The showing keeps the reader engaged.

That is it for the “Show, Don’t Tell” series. If you have any questions about show, don’t tell, leave a comment below.

Show, Don’t Tell Series:
Part 2- Show, Don’t Tell: Characterization and Personality
Part 3- Show, Don’t Tell: Emotions, Moods, and Reactions
Part 4- Show, Don’t Tell: Setting, Physical Traits, and Descriptions
Part 5- Show, Don’t Tell: Dialogue
Part 6- Show, Don’t Tell: Good Telling
Part 7- Show, Don’t Tell: Tell, Then Show

One thought on “Show, Don’t Tell: Tell, Then Show

  1. I wish that statement has a clear definition. I have had the same work reviewed by different people with some giving a feedback of ‘show, don’t tell’ while others pointed out I tell too much without showing. It only leaves me confused.


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