Show, not Tell
“Writers need words that create images and emotions for other people in addition to telling a story (Crafting Writers, K-6, Elizabeth Hale, page 43).
Often teachers of writing suggest to their students that they need to move away from telling a feeling to showing a feeling. The leap is too big for many writers. I suggest we teach all the steps to help the writers, and we don’t demand that they use them. We are trying to assist our students, not get in their way. I found it helpful to take the same sentence and write it in all five steps. However, I am an adult writer. My experience as a teacher is that moving from step one directly to step five is difficult for children and often unsuccessful.
Hale suggests that we teach five steps:
1. Tell a feeling
2. Tell a feeling, then give a reason
3. Using so…that
4. Telling the feeling. Then showing it!
5. Showing a feeling instead of telling it.
The first step telling a feeling is very obvious. Example sentences: I was mad. I am embarrassed. He is disappointed. Most beginning writers are accomplished at this first step. It helps the reader because it tells what the character is feeling.
The second step is tell a feeling, then give a reason. An example sentence: I was embarrassed in the grocery store because I overheard Andrew whispering behind me, “bottom, heels.” It helps the reader because it connects the feeling directly with a reason. It gives the reader something to react to.
The third step is using so feeling…that to describe a feeling. An example sentence: I was so embarrassed that I wanted to crawl into the grocery cart and cover myself up with Kleenex. It helps the reader because it builds more emotion. It describes the emotion for the reader.
The fourth step is telling the feeling, then describing it. An example sentence: I was embarrassed. My face flushed as red as a strawberry as I quickly moved down the aisle away from the old lady’s judging eyes staring into my bottom. This type of sentence helps the reader because it states the feeling so there is no doubt what feeling is being stated. It includes lots of description to build a picture in the reader’s mind.
The fifth step is Showing a Feeling instead of Telling. An example sentences: My cheeks were turning as red as strawberries as I strode the away from the old lady shaking her judgmental head. My ears continued to burn as I overheard my son mutter, “bottom and heels,” as I reached for a box of cereal to put in the grocery cart. This type of sentence(s) helps the reader because it describes the feeling without giving it away by stating it. The sentence depends on the reader to build a mental image using the words to figure out the feeling that the writer is describing.
I strongly recommend that you purchase this book for your writing book collection. It is awesome! Crafting Writers, K-6, Elizabeth Hale
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