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Understanding Show, Don't Tell (And Really Getting It)

(Skill Builders Series #1)

4.52  ·  Rating details ·  477 ratings  ·  104 reviews
Do you struggle with show, don't tell? You don't have to.
Award-winning author Janice Hardy (and founder of the popular writing site, Fiction University) takes you deep into one of the most frustrating aspects of writing--showing, and not telling. She'll help you understand what show, don't tell means, teach you how to spot told prose in your writing, and reveal why comm
Paperback, 136 pages
Published October 1st 2016 by Janice Hardy
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G.H. Eckel
Aug 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's rare to find a book that can actually make a difference in your writing. If you're an author, like me, you've read your fair share of how-to books. While all of them entertain good ideas, few if any have made a real impact on my writing.

show dont tell

Not so with Janice Hardy's book. It's secret is giving you a list of "red flag" words that you'll find in your writing that highlight all of the places you're Telling not Showing.

Like everyone else, I've been told to show not tell. Of course, that's what I
Julia Ash
Jan 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is such an awesome resource! Janice Hardy takes commonly "told" advice (Show, Don't Tell) and uses clear examples to "show" what it means and how to spot it in your writing! Most importantly, she provides lists of look-for words which help flag telling prose. So happy I read this book :) ...more
Jul 02, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This book is a great tool for any writer trying to understand the much heard advice, show don’t tell. Armed with ample examples, this is a book that really takes this advice apart, making it easy to understand for new writers.
Steve Garriott
Sep 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good information with lots of practical recommendations for how to ferret out those pesky telling passages or at least to know when and why you choose to tell rather than show (Hardy points out there are times when telling is appropriate). A quick read and worth spending the time.
Aug 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How could this be any less than 5 stars? One of the best writing books I've read. I've heard the advice "show, don't tell" over and over again, but NO ONE EXPLAINED WTF IT MEANT. This book did. And it does so thoroughly I feel like after only one read, I can significant elevate my writing.

It's a short book guys (~115 pages). Read it.
Melanie Hill
Mar 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is essential reading for all authors. I now really understand what showing and telling are and when to use them. I will read this book every year just to refresh and remind myself. I am looking forward to using the check list and the helpful descriptions to pick out the red flag words.
Jorge Rodighiero
Simply amazing. The best book I have read to improve my writing. Brief and to the point.
Bill Tillman
Don't publish without dogearing this book! This is a book to battle really mean villians, those TELLING WORDS. But a real cheat sheet at the back of the book would have been a great plus! ...more
Cecily Paterson
Mar 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really helpful

This was the best treatment of this topic I've seen. I'll be recommending it to the writers I edit and coach.
Jan 18, 2021 rated it liked it
For now I have to say that most of the information was not new to me and didn't necessarily clear up any confusion one might have on the topic because it pretty much all depends on what you want to convey as the writer.
Compared to the other books I've read on writing (although I may have just been lucky there) it also seemed rather boring and dry.

However there was quite a lot of detailed information about words and phrases to look out for, which should be quite useful for editing.

I will definite
Sten Rosendahl
Jun 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is THE book to read if you need to know what “show, don’t tell” really is about. It does not only have a lot of illustrative real-world examples, it goes further to teach you a lot more about how dialogue, perspective and the level of detail affects the reader of a story.
Jun 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good book with good exemples. Nothing incredible, but useful.
Nov 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I learned so much from this book. It is a great addition to the books that help an author sharpen her skills.
Stephen Smith
Jul 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned, writing
I've listened to hundreds of hours of writing podcasts and read tons of helpful writing advice, but I think this one book is going to help my writing more than anything else. The author provides incredible insight that opened my eyes to the many ways writers "tell" without even knowing it. I can finally put my finger on why certain writing "sounds amateur" and other writing "sounds great."

I absolutely recommend this book. THANK YOU JANICE!
Oct 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Solid book on craft that gives very specific examples on not only how to identify show vs tell in text, but also of how to fix it.

Found this to be an incredibly helpful resource.
Paul Teague
Jan 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book for authors

Show, Don't Tell is my author nemesis, so this book was just what I needed. I love the red flag word lists and the working examples, they help to clarify and consolidate the learning. I bought this book on Kindle then immediately bought the paperback so that I can highlight bits, add scribbles and keep it by my side at all times. Thanks for writing a practical, non-preachy book which really helps authors get to grips this this difficult topic.
Jan 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A down and dirty guide to showing vs telling. Includes clear examples of telling and how to fix it and balancing telling with showing. Hardy also lists and explains red flag words and phrases to find telling in your writing. One of the best explanations of "show, don't tell" I've seen. Quick and deceptively easy to read for such a slippery subject to new writers. ...more
James Walter Lee
Nov 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: craft
Very Helpful!

Janice Hardy takes us through an in-depth look at showing versus telling. Every writer who wishes to elevate their craft should definitely take a look at this book.
Feb 07, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is plain bad advice that generalizes poorly and doesn't bother to work through finer points. Advising against exposition at all costs and with complete disregard for the genre is a recipe for disaster in anything but the most vanilla setting. For example:

The basic definition of exposition sums up the pitfalls nicely: writing or speech intended to convey information or to explain.

That's also a definition for told prose. In writing terms:

It's when the science fiction protagonist gets
Jan 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
Found this informative and helpful, the only complaint was a minor one with the ebook's formatting, but it didn't bother me enough to mark off. ...more
John H
May 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
As someone taking a peek into the world of writing from the software development side of the fence - where there are more principles than I've had hot dinners - the big problem with learning how to wield a stated principle has always been finding a source of information that explains the 'why'.

Unfortunately, many authors regurgitate the same guff. "You must always do x." "Do x because it's best practice." There are no explanations, just an overly assertive author. This promotes a dogmatic minds
Peter A
Jan 06, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
“Show, don’t tell is one of the most frustrating pieces of writing advice out there. It’s ambiguous, it changes depending on who you ask, and most of the time, no one tells you how to put that advice into practice.”

The author’s own words summarize the challenge to aspiring writers of using this advice. Her book’s aim is to provide understand and practical advice to help an author improve her/his writing.

The author spends the first part of the book talking about what “show, don’t tell” advice me
Jan 19, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Understanding Show, Don’t Tell (And really Getting it): ?/10
By: Janice Hardy

As someone who considers themself a novice writer, I don’t have a strong opinion as to whether or not this book is excellent or not, mostly because I myself am not an excellent writer and I need to implement this advice over another subsequent hundred hours of editing or so before I know whether or not it had a tangible improvement on my writing.

I can say, however, that this book opened my eyes to how I write poorly an
B. Andersen
Dec 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I got the book, I was concerned that it would be another collection of nebulous advice unconnected to the kind of writing I did. I couldn't have been more wrong. Hardy walks through example after example of how a passage being "told" can be converted into a more active, interesting, and energetic "show." Hooray for concrete examples! She uses keywords or trigger words to spot problematic text, and makes the very sensible suggestion that it is fine to have these "tell" snippets in early draf ...more
Ashley Stout
So I originally gave this book a 3 star rating, but came back to give it a 5 star rating. Here's why:

I originally liked the book, and even though I only gave it 3 stars, I still was happy I bought it as a resource book. There are tons of great examples in the book and lists of words to look out for that might mean you are telling instead of showing. The main reason I originally gave it a 3 was because it was a struggle for me to get through the short 116 pages of this book due to how repetitive
Al Sevcik
Nov 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing-guidance
A remarkably helpful book for writers who care about how their plot is presented to readers. “Show, don’t tell” is one of those ubiquitous glib nuggets of advice that are too vague and general to be helpful. In this book, Janice Hardy digs into the nitty-gritty of what it means to “show” and how that differs from “tell”. She not only clarifies; she explains how to expose these embarrassing passages and turn them into gems. As part of the process of discovery Janice Hardy also gives us insight in ...more
J.d. Ray
Feb 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent and timely assistance

I finished Part One of my novel and made several revisions to it, thinking finally that I’d arrived at something worthwhile. Beta readers reported that, while the story seemed compelling, the writing was flat. “Show, don’t tell,” they said. I didn’t understand. Now, with Janice Hardy’s book, highlighted extensively, I can work toward a revision that people want to read.

Now on to Understanding Conflict, which will feature significantly in Part Two and Part Three. Ho
Eleni Karas
Oct 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In-depth, Useful

This is a deep dive into every workshops favorite piece of criticism, "show, don't tell." But if you're like me, your mind can get muddled and you have a tendency to over think. What exactly is showing again? And what is storytelling if not telling? Enter this comprehensive book, which break down all types of filtering and tells that creep into our drafts. This book is a great revision resource that I came see myself returning to often as a refresher between drafts. Recommended!
Feb 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Telling How to Show a Story

Janice Hardy explains how to improve fiction writing (that's the focus but would apply to nonfiction as well) by delving into the differences between tell and show. She provides examples that reveal how authors can markedly improve their writing and give readers a more insightful and pleasurable experience. The book also lists red flag words to alert writers that they are probably telling rather than showing. This book is a good resource that writers should have in the
Jonathan H. LATER
Didn't think I would gain much from this book. It's short to begin with and the cover looks childish, but the content is helpful for writers looking to learn about showing and not telling. There is a concept about this idea and how it should be followed, but no one is direct on how this method actually works. Janice Hardy responds to this in a way that, I, as a writer immediately improved upon my prose.
Check this one out if you are looking to step up your game in the realm of writing by showing
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Janice Hardy is the award-winning author of the teen fantasy trilogy The Healing Wars, including The Shifter, Blue Fire, and Darkfall from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins.

She also writes the Grace Harper series for adults under the name, J.T. Hardy.

When she's not writing fiction, she runs the popular writing site Fiction University, and has written multiple books on writing, including Understanding Sh

Other books in the series

Skill Builders Series (2 books)
  • Understanding Conflict (And What It Really Means) (Skill Builders Series, #2)

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