Three Words to Banish From Your Novel (or else)

2163816826_f6f7e8da16Showing instead of telling is a big obstacle for many writers.  Sometimes writers tell instead of show without even realizing it!  Here are three words that insidiously introduce telling into your writing.  Get rid of them (or else)!



He was obviously in a bad mood.

She obviously had a headache.

It was obvious that she didn’t want to be there.



He clearly thought she was full of crap.

She was clearly happy about the news.

It was clear she had better things to do.



He stepped back, indicating that he didn’t want to be that close to her.

She frowned, clearly indicating that she was still upset about their fight.

The man indicated that she should sit down.

Why They Suck

Anytime a writer uses a sentence like the ones above, I want to jump up and down screaming, “Cheater, cheater, cheater!”  All of these sentences are telling rather than showing.  They’re cheap, easy, zero-effort ways of making a point.

Sometimes these words are also used to stretch the point of view (POV).  If your POV character doesn’t have any way of knowing something, you can simply say that it’s clear, obvious, or indicated.  Cheaters!

Stretch yourself as a writer, find ways to show how characters think and feel.  Use expressions, body language, tone of voice.  And sometimes just let your readers breathe!  Give them a chance to draw their own conclusions.  They’re smarter than you think!

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6 thoughts on “Three Words to Banish From Your Novel (or else)

  1. Queen says:

    Hello Miss Ellen. I really enjoyed your video about how to show instead of telling a story. I also enjoyed a few of your other videos. I wrote short stories in school over the years and found that I really enjoy writing. I always took the writing prompts seriously and liked being able to take an idea and run with it, turning it into a story. I have many stories ideas written down and I do have confidence in there potential. But I am not a professional, though I am interested in becoming one. How can a person go from writing as a hobby to writing as a profession? I’m open minded and do not give up easy. What advice can you offer?

    • Ellen_Brock says:

      I suggest that you read a lot. Read about writing on the blogs of agents, editors, and authors. Get on writing forums and participate in conversations. Critique the work of other aspiring authors, and read lots and lots of books in the genre you want to write. And of course, write a lot, as much as you can, and experiment with style, POV, and voice until you find something that you really love and that is unique to you. It can be a long process, but also very rewarding. Good luck!

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