Descriptive Essay Show Not Tell

Descriptive Essay Show Not Tell-42
Gradgrind is described with short, compact and informative telling at first:‘A man of facts and calculations.A man who proceeds upon the principle that two and two are four …’ (p.1)In his story opening, Dickens deftly moves to dialogue that Gradgrind’s ‘by-the-rules’, bullish character. Call yourself Cecilia.’ ‘It’s father as calls me Sissy, sir,’ returned the young girl in a trembling voice, and with another curtsey. 1-2)In how Gradgrind addresses Sissy, Dickens shows us the traits described in the first introduction.

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The Nobel-winning poet Wislawa Szymborska ran an advice column.

She once told an aspiring author who’d used abstract terms such as ‘freedom’ in his writing the following:‘You’ve managed to squeeze more lofty words into three short poems than most poets manage in a lifetime: ‘Fatherland,’ ‘truth,’ ‘freedom,’ ‘justice’: such words don’t come cheap.

Tolkien shows us Mordor using sound (the ‘gasping’ pools), colour (‘sickly white’, ‘poison-stained’) and motion (‘crawling muds’).

The atmosphere of death and decay permeates everything, even in how the rock structures resemble a graveyard.

This tic is due to embarrassment (we learn later) about its size – a genetic inheritance.

This character introduction is more striking than if Proulx had continued with telling like her first sentence.

‘Show, don’t tell’ is something every aspiring author has heard or read at some point.

It’s true that telling the reader about your characters’ acts and emotions or your settings is often weaker than showing them.

This passage wouldn’t be nearly as effective merely told.

Tolkien could have written:‘Frodo was horrified by the landscape – every rock formation reminded him of gravestones and there were foul smells and eerie sights at every turn.’In this case, we lose the specificity, the detail and the power of Tolkien’s clearly visualized setting. To show settings clearly, like Tolkien: opens with the pompous and narrow-minded teacher Thomas Gradgrind, a ‘man of realities’, lecturing his students.


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