The Writing Life: Let the Showing Begin

Let the Showing Begin

By Michelle Janene

Every author is told, “Show, Don’t Tell.” It’s almost a mantra around writing events. But that could be easier said than done sometimes. One way to begin to move from telling to showing is by including all the senses.

Don’t write: Ally smelled cookies.

Show it: Ally opened the door and warm sweetness greeted her. She followed the sugary, chocolate scent until she stood next to the oven and reached for one warm disc from the cooling rack. The moist soft texture danced on her tongue. Melted chocolate slid out and her eyes closed in delight. The sweet goodness was just what she needed after a long day.

Don’t write: Jeff felt sore.

Show it: Jeff hauled his stiff leg over the saddle and clung to the horn as he eased to the ground. His legs throbbed and his knees threatened to buckle. He waited until his toes stopped tingling before he dared a step. Tight muscles fought for the familiar cadence of each step. Maybe a five-hour ride had been a bad idea.

Don’t write: The water dripped.

Show it: Something woke Anna. She lay staring up at the faint streetlight leaking in around the curtains onto her ceiling.


Really? Again?


Anna threw off the warm covers, her toes curling as they touched the icy wood floor.


When was Mark going to fix that faucet? She rubbed her arms against the goose bumps covering her skin.

Don’t write: Lisa stared at the meadow as she sipped the sweet lemonade.

Show it: Lisa picked up the pink drink and took a tentative sip. Cool liquid splashed over her tongue, but the strawberries she had expected didn’t greet her. Another larger taste was required. Raspberries. Her favorite summer fruit transported her to her mother’s garden and picking the deep red balls for the supper salad. Mother never got as many as Lisa picked. She ate about half in the process. Another deep drink and Lisa caught the slight hint of lemons hiding under the summer sweetness. Lisa leaned back and kicked off her sandals before crossing her ankles on the ottoman and stared off across the meadow of gently swaying grass. The shades of green were dotted with splashes of yellow, red, and orange from the wild flowers scenting the air.

Describing what your character is experiencing through their sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell is an effective way to pull any writing from telling to showing. It lets readers live each sensation with the character and if it is done well, can make them feel like they are the character.

Give it a try. Let the Showing begin.

About the Author

Michelle Janene lives and works in Northern California. Most days she blissfully exists in the medieval creations of her mind. She is a devoted teacher, a dysfunctional housekeeper, and a dedicated writer. She released her first novella Mission: Mistaken Identity in 2015. God’s Rebel came out in 2016, followed by Rebel’s Son and Hidden Rebel in 2017. She has been published in “Guide Post Magazine” and several anthologies. She leads two critique groups and is the founder of Strong Tower Press—Indie solutions for indie authors.

You can find her at Strong Tower Press, Turret Writing, on Facebook, Twitter, and on Goodreads.

You can read Michelle's "Writing Life" column on the 3rd Tuesday each month here at Pandora's Box Gazette.

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