Show, Don’t Tell – by Kinjal

Every writer (amateur as well as published) knows the concept of ‘show, don’t tell’. The first time I heard about it was during a creative writing workshop that I took in 2015 and till date it is my favourite writing style. It is, beyond doubt, a very important skill for every writer to possess. I say this because ‘show, don’t tell’ when used, has the power to turn a mundane and lackluster sentence into an extraordinarily bewitching and magical one.

I am thoroughly fascinated by it because as a concept, it is beautiful yet challenging. Let me explain this by quoting Anton Chekhov-

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.

So, instead of simply writing – It was a stormy night if you show that the night was stormy without using the word ‘stormy’ then you have used the concept of show don’t tell. For example-

TELL- It was a stormy night.

SHOW- The wind howled, the trees swayed and lightning flashed in a distance, followed by the sound of a whip cracking the earth open.

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While doing the show don’t tell exercise in class, I had a random thought- what if I tried this when I talk.  Why should I limit this fascinating technique to only the art of writing? It would definitely make boring conversations livelier!

So from that random thought arose a ritual that Kaajal and I follow religiously even today. Whenever Kaajal and I are having a conversation one of us stops the other and says- show, don’t tell and just like that the entire conversation gets a fun makeover that leaves us in splits.

It’s not just us, mom and dad too have become a part of this ritual (while mom was a natural, dad , being a man of few words, needed a lot of coaxing and cajoling) but from now on our family conversations have become that much more hilarious.

A typical conversation between Kaajal and me goes something like this-

Kaajal- Hey! Look at that cute dog! Isn’t it a Pomeranian?

Me- Yup, it is.

Kaajal- Let’s go closer and get a better look at the dog

Me- No way!

Kaajal- Why not? You used to like them so much! What happened?

Me- I did like them, but then you know that episode with the brown Pomeranian….

Kaajal- Hey! Show, don’t tell!

Me- Last year on my way back home from college, I saw a maid and a tiny ball of brown fur scurrying up the street. Intrigued by the tiny bobbing fluff ball, I looked closer and saw that it was a cute little Pomeranian. Unable to stop myself I dashed towards it. As soon as I reached closer, the dog looked up at me through her twinkling black eyes and a tiny red tongue lolled out. It seemed as if she was waiting for me to bend down and pet her. I was about to oblige her but when I inched closer she growled deep and low. Undeterred, I stroked her soft head but that was a colossal mistake. Her eyes flashed fire and her face contorted into an ugly mask of acrimony as she lashed out at me. I recoiled and watched in horror as she barked viciously, her entire body quivering with rage. The maid sharply tugged at her leash but that enraged her all the more and she lunged at me. Shaken by the incident, I walked away as fast as I could without looking back and that was the last time I ever approached a Pomeranian.

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When you resort to show don’t tell, conversations become a bit longer but one thing is certain, it’s a lot more fun, both for the speaker and the listener. There are no rules to follow and you can get as detailed as you like. It’s a fun way to spice up a conversation and have a good laugh. It doesn’t matter whether you do it properly or not, either ways it is sure to make you laugh. So the next time you find yourself in a conversation that feels like a rut, rather than abandoning it, speak up- but don’t just tell it, show it! 😉



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