Sunday, November 18, 2012

Showing and Telling in a Nutshell

I'm always on the lookout for books dealing with the concept of "showing versus telling," so when I discovered  Jessica Bell's new book, Show & Tell in a Nutshell: Demonstrated Transitions from Telling to Showing, I volunteered to post some information about the book on my blog.

I purchased the e-book for my Kindle last week, and after pouring through the pages for a few days, I find myself able to recommend the book, although that recommendation comes with two caveats. 

First, the title suggests the book will show examples of "telling scenes" being converted to "showing scenes" - which isn't exactly true.  The "telling scenes" aren't really scenes at all.  They're synopses of scenes - four or five sentences describing what will happen in the scene, similar to what a writer might jot down on an index card.  This might sound like nitpicking, but I believe it's an important distinction.  Writers who have trouble with telling (like me) rarely jump right into a scene and start showing.  Typically we only get around to fixing (or trying to fix) the telling after the scene has been fleshed out.  So for us, starting out with a fully realized scene and transforming some of that telling into showing is where we need the most help.

Second, no explanations or discussions accompany the converted scenes, nothing to explain the author's rational for how and why she wrote the scene as she did.  I understand this might raise the price of the book, but in my opinion, such discussions would be worth their weight in gold for those of us struggling with telling.  It's easy to look at a scene (written by someone else) that "shows" and agree that it's good.  It's much harder to figure out how to write it yourself, which is what I struggle with every single day.    

Anyway, if you're interested in fixing all that telling you've been doing, keep reading the blurb below and consider buying Jessica's book.

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Have you been told there's a little too much telling in your novel? Want to remedy it? Then this is the book for you!

In Show & Tell in a Nutshell: Demonstrated Transitions from Telling to Showing you will find sixteen real scenes depicting a variety of situations, emotions, and characteristics which clearly demonstrate how to turn telling into showing. Dispersed throughout, and at the back of the book, are blank pages to take notes as you read. A few short writing prompts are also provided.

Not only is this pocket guide an excellent learning tool for aspiring writers, but it is a light, convenient, and easy solution to honing your craft no matter how broad your writing experience. Keep it in the side pocket of your school bag, throw it in your purse, or even carry it around in the pocket of your jeans or jacket, to enhance your skills, keep notes, and jot down story ideas, anywhere, anytime.

If you purchase the e-book, you will be armed with the convenient hyper-linked Contents Page, where you can toggle backward and forward from different scenes with ease. Use your e-reader's highlighting and note-taking tools to keep notes instead.

The author, Jessica Bell, also welcomes questions via email, concerning the content of this book, or about showing vs. telling in general, at

“Jessica Bell addresses one of the most common yet elusive pieces of writing advice—show, don't tell—in a uniquely user-friendly and effective way: by example. By studying the sixteen scenes she converts from “telling” into “showing,” not only will you clearly understand the difference; you will be inspired by her vivid imagery and dialogue to pour through your drafts and do the same.” ~Jenny Baranick, College English Teacher, Author of Missed Periods and Other Grammar Scares
“A practical, no-nonsense resource that will help new and experienced writers alike deal with that dreaded piece of advice: show, don’t tell. I wish Bell’s book had been around when I started writing!” ~Talli Roland, bestselling author

Purchase the paperback:
$4.40 on Amazon US
£3.99 on Amazon UK

Purchase the e-book:
$1.99 on Amazon US
£1.99 on Amazon UK
$1.99 on Kobo

About the Author:
The Australian-native contemporary fiction author and poet, Jessica Bell, also makes a living as an editor and writer for global ELT publishers (English Language Teaching), such as Pearson Education, HarperCollins, Macmillan Education, Education First and Cengage Learning.

She is the Co-Publishing Editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal, and co-hosts the Homeric Writers’ Retreat & Workshop on the Greek Isle of Ithaca, with Chuck Sambuchino of Writer’s Digest.

For more information about Jessica Bell, please visit: 


  1. I once spent most of a day on the internet trying to find out the difference between showing and telling. Some of it made sense, some not. Part that did was making the reader see through the mc's eyes. That's hard to do with onmiscient POV where you jump from character to character. But everytime I think I'm showing, one of my critique group points out where I'm telling. It's a trap!

    1. LOL about the trap. I've been reading books and blog posts about telling vs. showing for two years and I'm still confused at times. I'm getting better at finding the more egregious examples, but I still have a long ways to go.

  2. Hey, thanks so much for posting this! :-)

  3. Oh, I'd just like to add, that I did consider adding explanations as to why I wrote what I did, but then (as I suggest in the introduction what writers should do), the writer wouldn't be able to break the scenes down on their own, and would therefore be influenced by what *I* thought, rather than make the discovery for themselves. The key to those a-ha moments, is when you realize something without being told. :-)

    1. I hear what you're saying. I've taught classes in chemistry and it does help to have the students work problems out themselves instead of just giving them the answer.

      At the same time, being privy to your thought processes as you fix telling scenes - sentence by sentence - would be incredibly helpful to people like me.

      Thanks for writing your book.

    2. Hey, thanks for the feedback. It's very helpful. I'm also hoping people who want more information will take advantage of the showandtell email :-)