Get Vivid: Show Don’t Tell

by Tahsin Tarafdar, Age 14, Canada


Although there are countless blogs dedicated to the piece of advice known as, “Show don’t tell,” it is often a forgotten or incorrectly used technique. This tool is actually important when regarding the overall impact that a story has. Essentially, it is the paintbrush that adds colour to a black-and-white canvas.

Here’s an example of bluntly stating actions and feelings:

Chihiro was extremely angry at Ken and decided to teach him a lesson. Unfortunately, the teacher was watching them.

Now here’s one way of showing these statements:

Chihiro’s eyes narrowed when she spotted Ken. She clenched her fists, sharp nails digging into her palms. The sweet tangy scent of his cologne crawled up her nostrils as she marched toward him. “How dare you!” She screamed as she grabbed him by the collar. 

Suddenly, the clear shrill of a whistle rang in her ears. Chihiro swiveled to find the teacher glaring at her.

When comparing these paragraphs, it’s evident that showing a scene is much more engaging to the reader than telling. The real question is: How do I show actions or emotions in a story? 

First, use vivid language that involves as many of the five senses as possible. This allows the reader to step into the character’s shoes and experience their world. The key is to avoid being vague by delving into each scene. Also, as shown in the example, dialogue is strongly encouraged since it can be used to effectively convey the mood and character.

In other words: don’t bore your reader with useless fluff lazing around the page! Let them taste the warm butter that melted on Emily’s tongue, or listen to the soft melody that lulled Yoshimi to sleep. By using this technique, the impression left with the reader will last long after they’ve journeyed through your words.


Tahsin Tarafdar is a 14 year old aspiring writer from Ontario, Canada. Tahsin writes, “I love writing and the form of release it provides. It is one of my favourite hobbies along with reading! I hope to pursue a career related to literature in the future.”



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