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Show, Don't Tell: How to write vivid descriptions, handle backstory, and describe your characters’ emotions (Writers’ Guide Series Book 3)

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Show, don’t tell is probably the single most-important piece of advice given to writers. But many writers struggle to understand this powerful principle or have difficulty applying it to their own work. Even experienced authors sometimes don’t grasp the finer nuances of showing and telling. In this book, Sandra Gerth draws on her experience as an editor and a best-selling Show, don’t tell is probably the single most-important piece of advice given to writers. But many writers struggle to understand this powerful principle or have difficulty applying it to their own work. Even experienced authors sometimes don’t grasp the finer nuances of showing and telling. In this book, Sandra Gerth draws on her experience as an editor and a best-selling author to show you how to show and tell you when to tell. Each chapter includes concrete examples and exercises that will hone your writing skills. Whether you’re a novice writer working on your first story or an established author who has already learned the basics of showing and telling, this book will help you to: - Grasp the difference between showing and telling. - Understand why showing is such a powerful tool. - Spot telling in your own manuscript. - Fix bland passages and turn them into compelling scenes. - Keep from telling what you have already shown. - Avoid the three danger areas of telling. - Describe your characters and your setting in interesting ways. - Put powerful emotions into your writing. - Incorporate backstory into your novel without resorting to telling. - Recognize telling in dialogue. - Avoid overshowing and swamping your readers with too many details. - Learn when telling is actually a good thing. - Immerse your readers into your story and keep them captivated from beginning to end.


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Show, don’t tell is probably the single most-important piece of advice given to writers. But many writers struggle to understand this powerful principle or have difficulty applying it to their own work. Even experienced authors sometimes don’t grasp the finer nuances of showing and telling. In this book, Sandra Gerth draws on her experience as an editor and a best-selling Show, don’t tell is probably the single most-important piece of advice given to writers. But many writers struggle to understand this powerful principle or have difficulty applying it to their own work. Even experienced authors sometimes don’t grasp the finer nuances of showing and telling. In this book, Sandra Gerth draws on her experience as an editor and a best-selling author to show you how to show and tell you when to tell. Each chapter includes concrete examples and exercises that will hone your writing skills. Whether you’re a novice writer working on your first story or an established author who has already learned the basics of showing and telling, this book will help you to: - Grasp the difference between showing and telling. - Understand why showing is such a powerful tool. - Spot telling in your own manuscript. - Fix bland passages and turn them into compelling scenes. - Keep from telling what you have already shown. - Avoid the three danger areas of telling. - Describe your characters and your setting in interesting ways. - Put powerful emotions into your writing. - Incorporate backstory into your novel without resorting to telling. - Recognize telling in dialogue. - Avoid overshowing and swamping your readers with too many details. - Learn when telling is actually a good thing. - Immerse your readers into your story and keep them captivated from beginning to end.

30 review for Show, Don't Tell: How to write vivid descriptions, handle backstory, and describe your characters’ emotions (Writers’ Guide Series Book 3)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Hamad

    This review and other non-spoilery reviews can be found @The Book Prescription “Telling is like giving readers a secondhand report afterward. Showing lets readers experience the events firsthand, through the five senses of the character.” 🌟 I haven’t heard of this book until I got a message from the beta-reading group moderator. She mentioned that this was a helpful book and that it was available for free on Amazon. I downloaded it because there was nothing to lose and after reading it I can say This review and other non-spoilery reviews can be found @The Book Prescription “Telling is like giving readers a secondhand report afterward. Showing lets readers experience the events firsthand, through the five senses of the character.” 🌟 I haven’t heard of this book until I got a message from the beta-reading group moderator. She mentioned that this was a helpful book and that it was available for free on Amazon. I downloaded it because there was nothing to lose and after reading it I can say that there is much to gain! 🌟 The full title of the book is: Show, Don’t Tell: How to write vivid descriptions, handle backstory, and describe your characters’ emotions. And it does exactly that. I am not an expert when it comes to the writing process since I specialized in a totally different subject in University. However, I like books and everything related to them, I even want to write my own book one day. 🌟 I postponed writing my first novella because I want to learn more. I want to bring something good to the world and I think this makes me one step closer to this! I have read other books on the writing process and one book mentioned not using adverbs when writing but never explaining why. After reading this I get it! This was so simple yet so helpful. It can be and should be read by anyone willing to write a story. 🌟 I noticed that I can now differentiate the telling vs showing when I read and that was the whole point of this book so I can easily say that it did an excellent job in what it promised it will do! I may check the authors other books since this one was good.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kristin Holt

    I've read and studied many titles about the essential concept, "Show, Don't Tell". I extend my compliments to Sandra Gerth for possibly the strongest, most helpful view at the concept, from every conceivable direction. I was pleasantly surprised to learn elements I'd not previously considered. I can't wait to share this title with a young cousin who's just publishing her first title. I believe this writing craft book will be of help and worthwhile to every new writer and most authors who aren't I've read and studied many titles about the essential concept, "Show, Don't Tell". I extend my compliments to Sandra Gerth for possibly the strongest, most helpful view at the concept, from every conceivable direction. I was pleasantly surprised to learn elements I'd not previously considered. I can't wait to share this title with a young cousin who's just publishing her first title. I believe this writing craft book will be of help and worthwhile to every new writer and most authors who aren't yet "perfectly seasoned". I've read a few authors' finished work that proves they already know all this... but those authors are few and far between. Superb!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Emma Sterner-Radley

    Clear and helpful! The long reading time was only because I re-read it right away after the first read and went through all the exercises while writing.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    There was quite a bit of (in my opinion) unnecessary language. I decide I would rather get a different book on the same subject that didn't have that. There was quite a bit of (in my opinion) unnecessary language. I decide I would rather get a different book on the same subject that didn't have that.

  5. 4 out of 5

    A.M. Heath

    This is a phenomenal tool. What I appreciated most is the author's straight forward approach. The information was given in a quick, simple, bite-sized way. Then she followed up immediately with small examples. I've read some books where the examples given were long and tedious, but this wasn't the case here. As for the information, I found techniques that I already practice as well as some that I haven't considered or understood before. And she did a marvelous job explaining everything. Gerth is This is a phenomenal tool. What I appreciated most is the author's straight forward approach. The information was given in a quick, simple, bite-sized way. Then she followed up immediately with small examples. I've read some books where the examples given were long and tedious, but this wasn't the case here. As for the information, I found techniques that I already practice as well as some that I haven't considered or understood before. And she did a marvelous job explaining everything. Gerth is certainly very knowledgable on the subject. Because I learn best by example, I loved how she paused at the end of each chapter and encouraged the reader to examine a chapter of their own work before moving on. The one drawback for me was the language. Being a conservative Christian author, I would have appreciated if the author had considered how her work could be viewed across several genres. While I can recommend the material, it would have to be with a word of caution.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Bea

    Short and to the point. Gerth explains with clarity, using plenty of examples throughout. I also appreciated the many writing exercises that were included. I only did a couple of the exercises while reading it but I can already see that they are helpful. Glad I picked this book up (today 3/27 it's free on Kindle) because it'll definitely be useful. Short and to the point. Gerth explains with clarity, using plenty of examples throughout. I also appreciated the many writing exercises that were included. I only did a couple of the exercises while reading it but I can already see that they are helpful. Glad I picked this book up (today 3/27 it's free on Kindle) because it'll definitely be useful.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jude in the Stars

    Excellent! Very useful not only as a writer but as a reader (you'll understand why some of the novels you've read left you feeling on the outside even though the story was good). Looking forward to reading the author's other writers' guides. Excellent! Very useful not only as a writer but as a reader (you'll understand why some of the novels you've read left you feeling on the outside even though the story was good). Looking forward to reading the author's other writers' guides.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lydia Coral

    I'm sorry this books turned out like it did, because the little I read was very helpful. But in the examples there were several swear words, and I had to stop it almost immediately. I'm sorry this books turned out like it did, because the little I read was very helpful. But in the examples there were several swear words, and I had to stop it almost immediately.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Bitten Andreasen

    A short, to the point and easy understandable book about the “show don’t tell” rule of writing. Well actually one of the things I like about this book is that it also explains that the rule should actually be “show and tell”. As the book says the trick is to get the right balance in your writing. Another thing I like about this book is the many examples, where we see the same text written both as tell and show, which makes it very easy to understand the difference and see when to use which.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lola

    Show, Don't Tell is one of those writerly advice pieces you seem to hear everywhere, but rarely you hear what that exactly means. This book is a short and to point non-fiction book that explains exactly what show, don't tell means. I really liked this book. It's informative and to the point, but also has plenty of examples to illustrate what the author means. I thought the examples were really handy to get what she was taking about and see how showing could transform a simple scene. While the boo Show, Don't Tell is one of those writerly advice pieces you seem to hear everywhere, but rarely you hear what that exactly means. This book is a short and to point non-fiction book that explains exactly what show, don't tell means. I really liked this book. It's informative and to the point, but also has plenty of examples to illustrate what the author means. I thought the examples were really handy to get what she was taking about and see how showing could transform a simple scene. While the book is about showing instead of telling, the author also states that actually you have to show and tell, just know where to do which. I liked that message as I definitely think that telling has it's place as well. At the end of most chapters there also are some exercises to incorporate what you learn in that chapter. I think this was a nice way to recap the chapters and for authors to incorporate the knowledge. To summarize: This is a great read that explains the advice show, don't tell. I enjoyed reading this book and found it informative in the way the author explained how to show instead of tell. And also more information about when to show and tell and how to spot problematic scenes and more. There were plenty of informative examples and also some handy exercises at the end of most chapters. I would definitely recommend this one if you want to know more about showing and telling and I plan on picking up more of this author's books.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Willis

    The first part of this book was really good. The definitions of "show" and "tell" and the analysis of why it's important to show rather than tell, the red flags for how to figure out when you're "telling," and the early information was very clear, very concise, and quite helpful. The second part of this book was... less helpful. There are all kinds of "rules" and guidelines that simply have no basis in fact. Things like "Don't use flashback scenes in the first third of your novel" and "most liter The first part of this book was really good. The definitions of "show" and "tell" and the analysis of why it's important to show rather than tell, the red flags for how to figure out when you're "telling," and the early information was very clear, very concise, and quite helpful. The second part of this book was... less helpful. There are all kinds of "rules" and guidelines that simply have no basis in fact. Things like "Don't use flashback scenes in the first third of your novel" and "most literary agents and many readers hate prologues" and "if you use dialogue tags other than 'said,' you're telling" are anecdotal assertions and specific to each individual at best, but they're presented as if they're commonly understood industry standards that should be followed. Overall, I would recommend this book for the overall approach to explaining "show versus tell." The definition, analysis, and similar big picture information is spot-on and can be really effective for anyone looking to better understand this popular writing concept. However, I would read the strategy part of this book with a heavy dose of skepticism and the understanding that it is - at best - general guidelines to consider rather than hard and fast rules that must be adhered to.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mermarie

    This author flip-flops and contradicts her own ideas; even down to the very book title. By the time she actually admits that showing AND telling are ideal, she'd beaten that concept to death for me to find it forgiving. I dunno, it was a big miss for me. Although, I did think the examples could be helpful in-order TO balance showing AND telling; allowing yourself a bit of license & working to place both showing/telling in spatterings throughout your craft. This author flip-flops and contradicts her own ideas; even down to the very book title. By the time she actually admits that showing AND telling are ideal, she'd beaten that concept to death for me to find it forgiving. I dunno, it was a big miss for me. Although, I did think the examples could be helpful in-order TO balance showing AND telling; allowing yourself a bit of license & working to place both showing/telling in spatterings throughout your craft.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lynelle Clark

    Personally, I found this book helpful. It cleared the misunderstandings I had about show rather than tell with much practical advice I will turn to until I understand it completely. The writing exercises are relevant and gave me the freedom and know-how; enlarging my knowledge in this key aspect of writing.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer LeBlanc

    I really love how this gives you great examples and techniques to use in your own writing. I definitely plan on putting them to good use in future books. Highly recommend for both new and seasoned authors.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Maida

    Incredibly helpful Great format and organization of the topics covered. The examples and exercises are really helpful. I’ll constantly reread to remind me of the best ways to show and tell.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Nathan Perkins

    Short, practical and I'll read and use the tool within it several times. Short, practical and I'll read and use the tool within it several times.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    Pretty basic, but good examples. I appreciated the way she explained that the "ditch the adverbs" advice is really saying "show don't tell." Pretty basic, but good examples. I appreciated the way she explained that the "ditch the adverbs" advice is really saying "show don't tell."

  18. 5 out of 5

    Carrie Daws

    Excellent! The author makes this easy to understand and highly practical, all without overloading the text with examples. This is the best book on this topic that I've found. Excellent! The author makes this easy to understand and highly practical, all without overloading the text with examples. This is the best book on this topic that I've found.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    Short and to the point. Best one about this subject I’ve read.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    Great guidance for novice writers and editors alike Sandra Gerth has pulled together a succinct, yet comprehensive text on the concept of 'show, don't tell' a concept that many novice writers struggle with. But her examples, descriptions, and exercises make this quite unique and very helpful. As an editor, this book has immediately jumped into my number one slot for books to recommend to any client who struggles with this. For myself, I will now go on to read her other books as I expect she will c Great guidance for novice writers and editors alike Sandra Gerth has pulled together a succinct, yet comprehensive text on the concept of 'show, don't tell' a concept that many novice writers struggle with. But her examples, descriptions, and exercises make this quite unique and very helpful. As an editor, this book has immediately jumped into my number one slot for books to recommend to any client who struggles with this. For myself, I will now go on to read her other books as I expect she will cover those topics with equal aplomb.

  21. 5 out of 5

    MysticAlchemist MysticAlchemist

    Maybe I was just worn down and this book came along at the right time, however, I’m going to credit it with being the one book that convinced me to show more and tell less. From the time my first manuscript was marked - too much telling - I’ve been looking at web sites and books about the subject. Endless examples of slamming doors and pounding fists, and I hate slamming doors and pounding fists. Instant turnoff for my reading and writing. Although this book does slam the door once, and pound a f Maybe I was just worn down and this book came along at the right time, however, I’m going to credit it with being the one book that convinced me to show more and tell less. From the time my first manuscript was marked - too much telling - I’ve been looking at web sites and books about the subject. Endless examples of slamming doors and pounding fists, and I hate slamming doors and pounding fists. Instant turnoff for my reading and writing. Although this book does slam the door once, and pound a fist or two, there is enough gentler and more useful examples to make me finally see the process of showing rather than telling. The idea that not all telling is bad and a balance between show and tell is possible is another aspect of this book that appealed to the inveterate teller in me. Over all, a great book. Highly recommended as a practical guide to everyday writing.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Allyson

    Seems like solid advice for discerning whether to show or tell when writing. I could have done without "GD" and the "F word" being used in the author's examples though. I'll have to go back and apply the exercises during the editing of my upcoming book. Seems like solid advice for discerning whether to show or tell when writing. I could have done without "GD" and the "F word" being used in the author's examples though. I'll have to go back and apply the exercises during the editing of my upcoming book.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jerry Walch

    For books on craft, Sandra Gerth is one of my favorite authors. She’s a lady who speaks with the authority that comes only with and through personal experience. Her books are must read books that every fictionist needs to have on his or her shelves of craft book. Show Don’t Tell is one of those must have books. Are you struggling to master the art of writing vivid description, using character’s backstory and writing your character’s emotions so that your readers feel them… then Show, Don’t Tell  For books on craft, Sandra Gerth is one of my favorite authors. She’s a lady who speaks with the authority that comes only with and through personal experience. Her books are must read books that every fictionist needs to have on his or her shelves of craft book. Show Don’t Tell is one of those must have books. Are you struggling to master the art of writing vivid description, using character’s backstory and writing your character’s emotions so that your readers feel them… then Show, Don’t Tell needs to be your next read. Sandra believes in paying it forward, she wants to help all you aspire writers develop those skills, so if you hurry you can grab the eBook version for free over on Amazon. How nice is that?  In a quick read, Show, Don’t Tell, is 112 pages, Sandra teaches you all the secrets that she had to learn through trial and error. Some say that the best lessons learned are those that we learned from our mistakes. I believe that to be true too because forty-plus years ago when I was just starting out as a professional technical writer; I learned best that way. The really good news is that you don’t have to make those mistakes to learn from them when you can experience those mistakes through the eyes of someone who has already made them and learned from them, someone like Sandra Gerth.  Fictioneers, no matter what their skill level, can learn to up their game from just reading this book. To get the most out of this book, you need to do the exercises that Sandra has included and there are over forty exercises spread throughout the text. This isn’t a book to be read once and put away on a book shelf, physical or digital, but a book that every serious writer will keep close at hand for easy, quick reference. I could continue to heap praise on Sandra and Show, Don’t Tell, but I’ll let the book speak for itself.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kay

    This is a short, handy guide to writing with more punch. Back when I used to write a fiction (a long, long time ago so that it's almost in a galaxy far away), I tried to write what I wanted to read. This book has more concrete examples even though there are times when telling is important. Still she is trying to break writing bad habits and show how to move stories along. She shares using real examples from her own works as well as has exercises primarily to apply to one's own stories. Unfortuna This is a short, handy guide to writing with more punch. Back when I used to write a fiction (a long, long time ago so that it's almost in a galaxy far away), I tried to write what I wanted to read. This book has more concrete examples even though there are times when telling is important. Still she is trying to break writing bad habits and show how to move stories along. She shares using real examples from her own works as well as has exercises primarily to apply to one's own stories. Unfortunately, I'm not writing any fiction write now but should I ever do so, this will be valuable to revisit. My actual reason for reading this is have more impact when writing my congressional representatives. Modern guidance is to present a story, not fictional mind you, but show how their actions or inaction personally affect the constituent as a voter. Emotional hooks are needed more than facts these days. I'm all for any approach that can increase my communication effectiveness. I'm rating this at 4 stars because of its usefulness but on its own, it's not a stand alone teaching/learning tool for creative writing.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sever Bronny

    Sooo I finished this paperback in a few days, and it was phenomenal. And what made it particularly good was the author's ability to give quality examples of what to do and what not to do with showing vs telling. It's short, clear, concise, and above all, simple enough to digest in a few sittings. So simple and concise that I could see myself going back and easily relearning the lessons without feeling like I'm taking on a month-long course. And I've been a full-time author for five years now, so Sooo I finished this paperback in a few days, and it was phenomenal. And what made it particularly good was the author's ability to give quality examples of what to do and what not to do with showing vs telling. It's short, clear, concise, and above all, simple enough to digest in a few sittings. So simple and concise that I could see myself going back and easily relearning the lessons without feeling like I'm taking on a month-long course. And I've been a full-time author for five years now, so these sorts of books are gems for me. It's going into my top four recommendations for writing craft books now, which currently stands at: "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers" by Renni Browne and Dave King "Wired for Story" by Lisa Cron "A Writer's Guide to Fiction" by Elizabeth Lyon Well done, Sandra Gerth.

  26. 5 out of 5

    E. Middendorf

    Helpful. I would recommend it. I've heard about the concept of 'show, don't tell'. This gives the precise meaning of the concept. Helping me to realize, it's popularly used. Every important part I always wanted to know. And the examples gave me the visuals I needed, helping me edit my own manuscript as much as possible. The only thing is, she states the the POV can't see their facial expressions, arguably, you can feel your expressions when you make them. So, that was the only thing I was confused Helpful. I would recommend it. I've heard about the concept of 'show, don't tell'. This gives the precise meaning of the concept. Helping me to realize, it's popularly used. Every important part I always wanted to know. And the examples gave me the visuals I needed, helping me edit my own manuscript as much as possible. The only thing is, she states the the POV can't see their facial expressions, arguably, you can feel your expressions when you make them. So, that was the only thing I was confused about.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Allyson KIng

    Great resource! This book not only explained what telling and showing are, but have both specific examples and exercises for the aspiring writer to practice! I think writers from all stages in their career can benefit from ti His resource. It also reminds us that just writing a book isn't the same as publishing a book readers become involved in to the point of not being able to put it down. Great resource! This book not only explained what telling and showing are, but have both specific examples and exercises for the aspiring writer to practice! I think writers from all stages in their career can benefit from ti His resource. It also reminds us that just writing a book isn't the same as publishing a book readers become involved in to the point of not being able to put it down.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Richard Burke

    This book is VERY short. If you read it through without doing any of the exercises, it will probably takes less than two hours. That said, the examples perform an excellent job of illustrating the points the author is making. If you are an aspiring writer, you will probably find something useful within. As of 1st April when this review was written, it is showing on Amazon as #2298 in C Programming Language. Weird or maybe just an April Fool prank!

  29. 5 out of 5

    J. Dorner

    This book should come with a coupon for the Emotional Thesaurus. (I already have a copy, but if you don't, get that first.) This is more of a companion, a book about how to use that book to improve your book. I wish I had learned more from this book. That is, I wish I had read it a few years ago when I could have appreciated it more. I would recommend it to those who want to know more about this write tip. It is informative. This book should come with a coupon for the Emotional Thesaurus. (I already have a copy, but if you don't, get that first.) This is more of a companion, a book about how to use that book to improve your book. I wish I had learned more from this book. That is, I wish I had read it a few years ago when I could have appreciated it more. I would recommend it to those who want to know more about this write tip. It is informative.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Traci Loudin

    Opened my eyes Despite having fantastic critique partners, i was still sometimes puzzled by their feedback on early drafts of my work. This book opened my eyes, and made me see why some of those passages didn't read quite right to my critique partners. Now that I have a better grasp of what counts as showing vs. telling, I'm finding my writing has improved. This book does a great job of explaining when to show and when to tell, because sometimes you do need to tell. Opened my eyes Despite having fantastic critique partners, i was still sometimes puzzled by their feedback on early drafts of my work. This book opened my eyes, and made me see why some of those passages didn't read quite right to my critique partners. Now that I have a better grasp of what counts as showing vs. telling, I'm finding my writing has improved. This book does a great job of explaining when to show and when to tell, because sometimes you do need to tell.

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