Updated: Mar 28, 2019
This is one of those things in writing which you hear over and over again. Like many rules it isn't one that should be obeyed a hundred percent, sometimes a well placed sentence of tell can work, but I will leave that discovery to you.
This blog isn't for the well-versed author who understands the difference, it's for those of you who are just starting out and you don't understand the concept you keep being told about.
Imagine yourself standing in a forest.
Are you there?
Now describe what you hear, smell, feel and see.
Is there a breeze kissing your cheek or maybe the warmth of the sun warming your skin?
Can you hear the sound of the leaves rustling or a deer sprinting through the undergrowth?
What do you smell and see?
The different senses when described in your writing help draw the reader into you story and make them feel like they are experiencing what your character is.
Don't just tell your readers that your character is in a forest, let them experience the physical environment for themselves.
Writing is an art form, and like all the other types of creative work you are constantly learning, and improving.
I have a long way to go myself.
It isn't just the physical enviroment of your characters you can use the rule 'Show don't Tell' with its the characters emotions as well. I know it's easier to tell your readers that your heroine is happy, sad, or any other emotion she might be feeling, but by using body language to show instead, you can drag your readers deeper into the story.
Make them feel the hairs on the back of their neck stand on end, or their heart galloping in their chest. If your hero just lost someone close to him in a tragic accident, make your reader feel his physical pain.
Below is a sample from Hers To Save.
Can you pick out all the places where I show, and bring you into the story?
Can you feel my characters fear?
If just told you Lief was scared, instead of showing you with his body language would it have the same impact?
Leaning against the contorted trunk of an ancient oak, Leif gulps in a lungful of decaying air. He hides in the murky shadows, veiled under the trees wide crown of twisted and dipped boughs. Staffs of moonlight pierce the dense canopy of the woodland, dusting the ground in patches of spectral brilliance. A carpet of scarlet leaves shimmers like a pool of spilled blood, making the hairs on his neck bristle and his skin to feel feverish.
Leif has never been known to be brave. When his father had ordered him as a young boy to follow in his footsteps, and learn the trade of butchery, he meekly obeyed. Now at twenty summers old, he was betrothed to the unsightly daughter of a tanner. It didn't matter if her cackling laugh and grating voice made his ears feel like they had hot pokers jabbed inside them; he had obeyed and got on one knee. Even though, in his current situation, the wedding may never come to pass, a small mercy indeed. Was it even now cowardice on his part that had him contemplating his escape? Should he not stay and help the women and children? Was that not the courageous thing to do?
Tendrils of spectral mist roll through leafy bowers and around thick wooden limbs, creeping across the forest floor. Unseeing menacing eyes glare out at him from within the silvery apparition. Grasping the thin cord around his neck, he pulls his crucifix free from the confines of his woollen brown cloak and touches the warm metal to his cold lips. Weaving closer, the ghostly creature hides the surrounding foliage beneath its gossamer wings. He knows it’s fear making the mist seem like a living thing, but he still eases away from the coiling vapour. The haunting ballad of a hunting horn sounding in triumph carves away at the eerie silence. No longer wanting to be alone, Leif heads toward the beautiful sound. Trees press in from all sides as he plunges through the heart of the forest, swiping low hanging branches out of his way.
This is a sample from my first written work, and like I said we are all learning along the way.