Niamh Clune

Environment, poetry, comment, children's books,

Show And Tell At Work Day

Today is Show And Tell at Work Day, so I thought I would celebrate Show and Tell in literature. Actually, in literature, the mantra is, ‘show, don’t tell’. So, what does that mean?

‘Don’t tell me the moon is shining. Show me the glint of light on broken glass,’ Anton Chekhov once advised.

Showing is a bit like painting a picture with words. I could tell you the moon is bright, or I could describe the moon being bright so that you feel, and almost experience, its brightness:

“…A finger of moonlight slipped through the curtain illuminating the corner table.”

I could tell you Barry was cold, or I could show you by conjuring an image of his coldness:

“…he slipped icy fingers into her warm hand.”

Showing is much more exciting than telling and evokes imagination.

Sometimes, you do need to move the story onwards more quickly and not labour over mundane but necessary information which would slow the pace. A summary narrative is not always a mistake. You can return to the flow as soon as possible.

Well-written books are usually better than the film because they activate the theatre of the mind. There really is no substitute for the reader’s own imagination.

With this in mind, a description in a new story I am developing is as follows…

“…Funnily enough, shopping—with crowds of people pushing and shoving and kids hollering and babies crying and drivers shaking their fists and parents shouting at their children and older people becoming cranky and getting lost—never gave her headaches. Only that difficult boy, that sent-to-punish-her boy, could manage that, single-handedly, for doing no more than having awful hair, a skin-thingy and a stammer.”


(Adapted from The Dual Veil, release date to be announced).

In this description, I have evoked an image of a mother who definitely doesn’t love her son. I could have told you simply that she didn’t like him, was selfish and self-centred. Instead, the reader hopefully feels sympathy for the son (Barry Brown) and develops an instant dislike for his mother.

Find the opening chapter in Dr Niamh Children’s Books HERE Barry Brown and the Dual Veil.

About Dr Niamh

When I was a little girl (a very, very long time ago), I used to love learning new, really big words like ‘discombobulate’. As I grew, my love of words grew too, until I loved them so much, I could not stop writing them down. One day, as I was scribbling a particular word, a very peculiar thing happened. The word shouted at me, “Stop! Don’t put me there!” As you can imagine, I was shocked and nearly fell off my chair. When I recovered somewhat, I said to the word, “Could you stop shouting, please? I am not used to it.” Can you guess what happened next? No! I thought not. The word said, “I might be small, but I will misbehave if you do not use me properly. I will not tell the story you would like me to tell. I will say something entirely different!” I dropped my pen. I hoped that by dropping my pen, the word would stop talking. Alas! It did not. It carried on chitterchobbling, even after the ink had dried. I was in a pickle. I could not allow my words to run away with my story, now could I? I don’t know about you, but when this sort of thing happens, there is only one thing left to do if you prefer not to spend your time arguing. “Very well,” said I. “I will do as you ask if you will just be quiet and allow me to concentrate.” Since that day, I have been paying special attention to every word I invite into my stories. After all, a story should say exactly what it means to say and not be led astray. With love from Dr. Niamh, Ph.D in Learning Through The Imagination and Founder of Dr Niamh Children's Books.

4 comments on “Show And Tell At Work Day

  1. Patricia Tilton
    January 8, 2018

    Enjoyed your post on “showing.” Great examples. I didn’t know you were writing a middle grade book! Just read the first chapter. Yay — a child with a stuttering problem. There aren’t many books out there. Sounds like your book is magical realism?? Good for you.


    • Dr Niamh
      January 8, 2018

      Yes! Patricia. It is Magic Realism. I have written it and am hoping I can find a publisher. I don’t know where to start!


  2. Darlene
    January 9, 2018

    Some great examples of showing instead of telling. Your new book sounds great! Good luck with it.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: