S – Show vs. Tell

My A to Z Challenge theme is teaching you how not to write a book, or a short story, or any piece of creative writing whatsoever. For more information, including links to previous chapters and lessons, please refer to this post. Now buckle in and proceed with…



Billionaire Highlander cowboy Hawk MacHardcastle is tired of living the jetset life of champagne, bucking broncos, kilts, fast cars, and burning bundles of cash for warmth. Desperate to find meaning in his life, he retires to his family’s isolated cabin in the wilds of New Jersey, on the shores of majestic Lake Latrine.

There, Hawk plans on self-reflection and pursuing the great love of his life—fishing. However, Hawk’s self-imposed loneliness comes to an end when he makes a most unusual companion and fishing buddy.

Dropsy Velvet was once a young woman living on the shores of Lake Latrine with her settler family. However, a curse turned her into a mermaid and now she lives, sad and alone, in the depths of the lake. She hasn’t had human contact for close to fifty years, thanks to everyone either being terrified of her or thinking they’re drunk when they see her—but Hawk may be the connection to the world she’s been craving. Charmed by her innocent face, sparkling wit, and huge bare breasts, Hawk decides to help her find a way to lift the curse, as she will lift his: the curse of ennui and affluenza. But time is running out, for something sinister wants to flush Latrine away forever.

Show vs. Tell

Hawk spent hours in the water with Dropsy, trying to nurse her back from her heatstroke. The day was long and difficult. He was worried and distracted, kicking himself for his mistake. Dropsy didn’t have a good day either, her symptoms were terrible. She suffered horribly.

Thankfully, when night fell she seemed to be doing better. She swam around and her tail turned back to the correct color. She was happy. Hawk was happy.

“I’ll never do something so stupid again, darling,” Hawk said. “I’m going to have to learn how to love a mermaid, and remember that you are bound by your limitations, like a three-legged dog.”

“I forgive you, Hawk.” Dropsy was serene. “I know you only want me to be with you, and I shall be. We’ll find a way to make this work between us. We must, for now that you’ve taken my innocence, I love you. I’ll risk all the hot tubs in the world for you.”


Show, don’t tell, is an adage writers hear all the time. Back in February, I wrote an extensive post on what show, don’t tell actually means. The short version is: a story should be like watching a TV show—you see things happening, you experience the events along with the characters. Telling is simply stating things and not really unraveling a story. You should paint a picture, not give a recounting. Hawk was distraught all day, so I should show him being distraught through his actions and words. Dropsy was delirious with heatstroke, so I should show you what she was going through, rather than just saying it. Showing has much more emotional resonance than merely stating something happened.

Showing helps you connect with your characters as an author, too. If you’re writing about their experiences in detail, both happy and sad, wonderful and terrible, you’ll start to feel for them like they’re real people—and that can only make your writing better. Make your readers connect the same way, by letting them share in your character’s suffering and joy. You can’t do that by just saying things happened. Really show us how, why, and when they happened, in excruciating detail.

Author: Megan Morgan

Paranormal and contemporary romance author.

10 thoughts

  1. “and remember that you are bound by your limitations, like a three-legged dog”
    What woman wouldn’t fall in love with such romantic man? Though I suppose mermaid might understand romance differently form women 😉

    I think Show vs. Tell is very tricky, because sometimes, telling is actually better than showing. I think what we should strive for is a good balance between the two techniques.


    1. Hawk is nothing if not romantic! He’s just so….manly and perfect! 😉

      That’s a very good point. Sometimes you just can’t ‘show’ something because you need to get some information across. The best writers are the ones who can balance it, definitely.


  2. I love the dialogue. His comparing her to a three-legged dog, and her statement that now that he’s taken her innocence, she loves him, and will risk all the hots tubs in the world for him. Wow! 🙂


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