Mortal sin, root of all evil, the baddest of the bad!

IMG_0166If you’ve ever gone to a writing class or been part of a critiquing group or read a writing book or really done anything involving writing in the English speaking world, you’ve probably heard this a million times.

“Show, don’t tell”.

It’s a phrase that had been hammered into every writer for decades. In some writing circles it is considered a mortal sin, and the root of all evil. If there is anything wrong with your work, it must be that you are telling and not showing.

But what does that phrase really mean, and does it even make sense? I mean, if you’re writing a first person narrative wouldn’t you narrate (tell) your novel? Also, aren’t writers supposed to tell a story? So why would telling be so bad?


Some of the confusion probably comes from the phrase itself.

First of all, I’m pretty sure that it’s not grammatically correct. I know that’s just me being nit-picky, but isn’t the whole phrase about being nit-picky? So shouldn’t it at least be a normally structured sentence?

That a side, in novel writing you don’t literally show anything, you write it. So, “show” really isn’t a great word to describe what is meant. What I understand is the meaning of  “show” is really “action”. Us writers want to have an active rather than passive voice in our writing, so it would make sense to also have action in our story.

Show Action not tell.


The next problem word is “Tell”. This word has way too many positive writerly connotations to ever be appropriate for this phrase. Novel writers tell stories. Indie writers tell critics where to stuff it. News writers tell it like it is. In this bright, beautiful world of telling, it’s very difficult to understand it in a negative light.

So, in this phrase, what does “Tell” really mean? Well, I believe it refers to exposition also known as an info dump. We’ve all seen these before, it’s those really boring and completely unrealistic monologue moments when a character vomits up their entire life story for no believable reason. It’s when something is explained rather than demonstrated through a character’s actions.

Show Action not tell explanation.

book shelf 2

Action not explanation is so much more clear, it tells you what your supposed to be writing and what your not, in three easy words that actually make sense.  It’s kind of strange that someone hasn’t ditched  the old phrase a long time ago. Too bad this new and improved phrase also isn’t grammatically correct.




Short and rarely seen

IMG_0128It has been so long since I’ve written a short story to add to my freebie page, I’m sure many thought I had completely forgotten about it. Honestly, it wouldn’t have even crossed my mind it if wasn’t for a picture book that I was responsible for processing.

The children’s book had such an odd title (Into the pumpkin) and I thought, Hmm, wouldn’t that make a great title for a Halloween short story. And then I remembered that I hadn’t written any short stories in a really long time. Oops!

Even for a novelist, writing novels isn’t enough. Writing short stories keeps you limber as a writer. The small format forces you to stay flexible in your story creation. It also forces you to cut out all the extra frills in your writing and only leave what is absolutely necessary to move the story forward. It’s really hard to have much character development in such a small format, so every word and every action your characters make have to convey their personalities. Short stories really keep a writer on their toes.

So I’m hoping that I will have enough time this month to write up a new Halloween short story.  It will probably have the  title “Into the pumpkin”. And hopefully it won’t be a complete disaster. After all, I’m really out of practice.

If you want to read last year’s Halloween story click here. 

So simple, I never thought of it

Driftwood island new and improved cover

Shameless advertising

At the end of one of my little writing classes, my professor pointed out some quick and simple ways to market a freshly written novel. Most of the tips I already did, like having a website and writing a blog, but one of the tips was so simple I honestly never even thought of it.


He suggested having bookmarks made with your book cover image and your author name on them and then just put them in every book that moves through your hands. Return a book to the library? Stuff a bookmark in there before you do. Donating some books to a “little library” or Goodwill? Make sure there’s a bookmark in each one. People who like books tend to like bookmarks, and it’s cheep advertising.

Seriously, why didn’t I ever think of that!

monster in the basement smash words cover

More shameless advertising

Anyway, it was such a good tip I thought I would pass it along to everyone else.

Happy writing!