Show, not tell

How many times have you heard this advice as a writer? Too many to count I am sure if you are seriously pursuing the craft. It is so true. When you tell the reader about an event, a conversation, etc, it is boring. Flat. When you show the same thing, it is alive.

Showing can be in the form of dialogue. It can be in the form of tense. For example:

“On my way to the store to get the milk and bread I needed to survive the Blizzard of 2015, I saw a car off the road. I stopped to find an elderly gentleman who was not going to be able to remedy his situation himself. So I put on my gloves and Mad Bomber Hat and pushed while he rocked his car back and forth like a pro.”

That is showing.


“I went to the store to get milk and bread to survive the Blizzard of 2015 and helped an elderly gentleman get his car back on the road.”

What would you rather read?

Right now, U2 is riding the summit of my music preferences. And I am sure I am overthinking this and others might shake their head, but I have focused on one verse of one song that epitomizes SHOW versus TELL. And Bono does it with ONE WORD.

From “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)”

I woke up at the moment when the miracle occurred
Heard a song that made some sense out of the world
Everything I ever lost now has been returned
The most beautiful sound I ever heard

For the most part, this is a tell. It is past tense. Bono is TELLING us about that moment when Joey Ramone lit that fire in him. An awesome moment. But one word, to me anyway, makes this chorus a SHOW.

“Everything I ever lost now has been returned.”

Despite the entire chorus being in the past tense, this one word makes it live. Makes it real. Makes it a SHOW, not TELL. To me, it wouldn’t have the same effect as “had been returned.”


How do you view your mind?

If you had to draw a depiction of what you think your writing mind looks like, what would it be?

At the South Portland (ME) writer’s group last Saturday someone asked the question about how do people know what to write about. I’m not sure if my answer was what she was looking for, but I described my mind as such:

Do you remember when they used to draw the daily lottery numbers on TV in the evening? Maybe they still do it in places but I haven’t seen it for a long time now. Anyway, I described my mind as being one of those machines full of the numbered ping pong balls flying around inside.

That’s my mind. The ideas fly around like those numbered balls. There are plenty of them in there.

The issue is getting them out.

I liken actually being able to put words on paper to the little door opening at the bottom of the machine and a number pops out. The rub is that I have yet to master how to open that door consistently.

It seems to be getting easier and if it is, it is because I am working harder at it. Which brings me back to the advice we have all heard over and over: If you want to be a writer, you have to write. And write. And write. It takes discipline. It takes courage. It takes determination to make writing a priority. And as I said in a previous post, that is a resolution for 2015. Make writing a priority.

So, how do you see your mind if you were to have to draw it on paper. A sealed shut vault? A high speed printer? Is it what you want it to be?


Let me introduce myself. Like fog along the coast, writing has drifted in and out of my life since I was a teenager. Starting at 16, when I was a stringer for The Manchester Union Leader (Manchester, NH), through today, writing has played a role in who I am.

This website, and other efforts are an attempt to focus this energy, and hopefully talent, into something tangible. Another “career”? Success as a writer? Peace of mind? All of the above? We shall see.

Aside from the Union Leader, I have written for The Granite State News and Lake Region Courier (Wolfeboro, NH) and the Lewiston Sun Journal (Lewiston, ME). Since 2004, efforts have focused on fiction. I have been involved in A Gathering of Writers, creative writing workshops at the Maine Woman’s Writers Collection at the University of New England (Portland, ME) as well as a group of writers who meet monthly in Raymond, ME for the past three years.

Tomorrow I will join a new group at the South Portland, ME public library who meet monthly.

In addition, I am a member of The Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance, an excellent resource for Maine writers.

Again, welcome to my online world. I, and hopefully you as well, will watch it unfold.