SHOW DON’T TELL
It was winter.
What’s it do? The onus is now on you to fill in the scene with *your* winter. Was it cold? Windy? Snow or rain? Are you comfy or out of place? Your brain creates the scene. It’s personal to you and has nothing with an image of winter the artist is trying to give you.
Tim is sad.
Eric went to the store.
It’s so cold out.
Most things we say are “telling”. Not because we are audibly communicating, but because we’re telling someone something, instead of an alternative; leading them to a conclusion, painting a picture for them, making a comparison.
There are three main ways I can think to show instead of tell. Simile, Personification, and description.
That winter was like a grave.
What’s it do? It creates emotion. Feeling. Vibe. Atmosphere. Again the onus is on you to fill in the look and the details. What is a grave like to you? What does that evoke? If it’s a solid simile it will create a universal image or draw upon tropes that everyone understand.
Winter gripped my chest with its icy claws.
What’s it do? More of the above. Emotion. Feeling. It turns the inanimate into living creature and monsters. It begs you to relate to it, like you would a another living creature. Even if that relation is horror, or fear, instead of love or kindness. The relation it creates is entirely based on the relationship between the *thing* and what it is personified as.
The snow was shin deep and the pavement dried white. Black trunks of trees held bare branches. No birds were tangled in their limbs.
What’s it do? It’s part mystery, part riddle, part painting. No where do I *tell* you it’s winter. I show you *my* winter. The purpose is for the artist to give you their image. The onus is on them to give you what is in their head and for you to see it and experience life in someone else’s mind.
None of these are better than the other. They are tools for you to tell a story the way you want to tell it. Each one can be useful in a variety of situations, but only you will know which to use when. Maybe now you know *why* you used it.
Keep these tools in mind when DMing.