Balance Showing and Telling in Writing


  • How to Decide Between Showing and Telling
  • Is it necessary to show every sensory element, every action, and every detail in this scene?
  • Does this part of the story require strong imagery and active details?
  • How important is this element to the plot, setting, or characterization?
  • Is creating a mental picture for readers (showing) effective in this instance?
  • Is so much being shown that nothing is revealed?
  • Instances When Telling is Better than Showing
  • To show the passage of time. A story can span days or years. It’s not necessary to know everything that happens every moment.
  • To reveal how much time has passed (e.g., seasons changing, characters aging).
  • To move readers to the next important piece of the story.
  • To gloss over insignificant characters or unnecessary events that don’t have anything to do with the main story and don’t move the plot forward.
  • To add backstory.
  • To report events that aren’t really important.
  • To connect scenes.
  • To focus on an emotion when showing is unnecessary or impossible.
  • To provide details about travel or transitions.


Excellent post. I wish more writers would pay special attention to the last part ‘when telling is better than showing’.

Too much showing of unnecessary events and insignificant details has ruined many a good book for this reader.

This is something I struggle with. The last section ‘when telling is better than showing’ is going to be something I will come back to over and over to try to help with this. Thank you.