Show vs Tell with Jane Godman

This week author Jane Godman is visiting us. She is talking about Showing and Telling in fiction writing. She has a new book out this month, Colton's Secret Bodyguard (The Colton's of Roaring Spring).

JANE GODMAN is a 2019 Romantic Novelists’ Award winner and 2018 Daphne du Maurier Award finalist. She writes thrillers for Harlequin Romantic Suspense/Mills and Boon Heroes and paranormal romance for Harlequin Nocturne/Mills and Boon Supernatural and St. Martin’s Press Romance. She also self publishes her historical and gothic stories.
Jane was born in Scotland and has lived in Germany, Wales, Malta, South Africa, and England. She still gets the urge to travel, although these days she tends to head for a Spanish beach, or a European city that is steeped in history. 
When she isn’t reading or writing romance, Jane enjoys cooking, spending time with her family, and enjoying the antics of her dogs, Gravy and Vera.  

 Connect with Jane Godman on the web:

Website         Facebook          Twitter         Goodreads

When to show and when to tell
Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
Anton Chekov
Chekov’s famous quote describes one of the trickiest of all writing rules, that of “when to show and when to tell.”
As a rookie writer, I’d hear about “show not tell” all the time, but what does it actually mean? Put simply, it’s the method of painting a picture for the reader with words so that he or she visualize a character’s emotions rather than spelling it out for them.
Generally, when we’re writing about emotions and senses, showing works best. Just like in a movie, the reader is able to interpret and feel his or her own emotional response. We are creating a rich, vivid text that is open to interpretation. It invites the reader to interact with the story.
Telling: He looked angry
Showing: His eyes flashed pure fire as he leaned forward and banged a fist on the table.
However, we do need a balance in a text. Telling is more effective when we’re summarizing backstory or describing action. If we used showing throughout, the story would be overly-descriptive, slowing the action and making it a less exciting read.  
There is no right way to write a novel and no single way to tell a story. No rule is truly binding, but I’ve found the following tips for showing and telling useful.
When can Telling be helpful?
·          When showing the passage of time
·          When recounting simple backstory
·          When capturing the narrative voice of secondary characters
·          When expressing a simple statement
·          When crafting dialogue
·          When transitioning between settings
·          When balancing lengthy “showing” descriptions
Showing tips:
·               Make use of all five senses
·               Avoid “telling” verbs: heard, saw, thought, smelled, or wondered
·               Make use of rich language by avoiding adverbs. If a character “surges up” from her seat it makes more impact than saying she “rose quickly”.
·               Personify the emotion. “She was angry” becomes “Anger bubbled up inside her.”
·               Avoid clich√©s. Phrases like “thick as thieves” and “dead as a doornail” can pull the reader out of the moment and may be inappropriate for an international readership.
Don’t say the old lay screamed. Bring her on and let her scream.”
Mark Twain.

There is an art to knowing when to show and when to tell in order to captivate the reader. Getting the balance right between, but it is important. I hope I’ve helped a little bit!  

Colton’s Secret Bodyguard (The Coltons of Roaring Spring)

His mission: keep her safe, no matter what…

A Coltons of Roaring Springs thriller.

Just as Bree Colton is about to take the local art world by storm, someone is determined to sabotage her success…unless Rylan Bennet can keep her safe. Bree doesn’t want anyone to protect her—not even gorgeous Rylan, whose secrets threaten them both. But can the former soldier win the battle for Bree’s heart and the war against a sinister foe?

Buy on:

Amazon UK              Amazon Aust

Harlequin                 B&N 

Kobo        Book Depository        iBooks


  1. Yeah, that is a tough one. A guy in my (now defunct) writing group used to ask us all the time about novels he read that had tell scenes in it. It was a big debate.

  2. This is a very nice post about the difference between telling and showing. I've read different illustrations of the advice, but this is concise and pins it. I"m reading some fun mysteries right now by M. C. Beaton, and she does a lovely job of what you describe.

  3. Striking a balance between showing and telling is practically an art in itself. There's an optimal time for each, but knowing which is which is the trick. Nice post!

  4. I really like the cover for your book.

  5. Oh yes when to show rather than tell. Interesting post, thank you.

  6. Jane's talented. The book sounds good!

  7. Interesting selections, thank you so much for sharing them.

  8. lovely introduction....I understand about telling and showing now.
    Thank you for sharing your post

  9. Hi, Jane! Thanks for the excellent advice.

  10. Excellent commentary on showing and not telling!

  11. It's getting the show v tell balance right which is tricky. So often writers feel they must show everything and end up slowing a story down with a dull scene, when a short sentence would have done the job much better.

  12. Thank you, everyone! It's definitely a balance, often a tricky one. I think it's worth spending time in the editing process making sure it's right. I find reading through my own work (or getting someone else to do it) and looking out for those show/tell moments really helps.

  13. Sounds like helpful advice to me! Showing and not telling can be tricky sometimes and Jane gave some very clear and helpful tips. Thanks so much!