How to Use Telling (not showing) to Enhance Your Novel [Novel Boot Camp 4]

Telling (rather than showing) is an effective way to convey information to the reader when done well! In this video I explain the best way to tell information to the reader to avoid boredom and slowing down the story.

Step One: Determine why you’re including the information.
Step Two: Assess whether you need the fact or the story.
Step Three: Determine the minimum the reader needs to know.
Step Four: Assess what the reader needs to know right now (and what can be saved for later).
Step Five: Integrate the information into action by attaching it to something happening in the current scene.

Comment Question: Are there any books that you think manage information (telling) well?

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8 thoughts on “How to Use Telling (not showing) to Enhance Your Novel [Novel Boot Camp 4]

  1. writer33! says:

    This is helpful. I was having trouble in finding where to start my story. I wasn’t sure on where to start – before the husband dies or after. After watching I see where my story does more telling about his death. I can start at his funeral.

    Thanks so much!!!

  2. Jen (Full of Love) (@gluedwithgold) says:

    This has just allayed so many of my fears about the story I’m currently working on! It’s my first attempt at a fantasy world (I’m still trying to find my genre, where I want to focus my writing), and I’ve written about 750 words of telling/description explaining the world fairly close to the beginning. I was worried it was too much telling, but now I’m certain it is necessary because the reader needs to know this information to understand both the characters and the plot, and there’s just no way to show it without veering away from the plot for a very long time. It could use a bit more editing, I have a few points in there that are probably not necessary, so I’ll go back over it and make it more concise. I can also see where I’ve included more information about the world within the action, ‘hiding the telling’ as you say, throughout the story – so I’m much more confident about what I’ve done with this story now!

    Thank you so much for all the work you’ve put into this bootcamp – I’m finding it all very useful and so enjoyable! 🙂

  3. djt fontana says:

    Thank you for this video and very helpful information. I tend to tell more than show and then need to go back and correct a scene. I also tend to be more prosaic in my writing, so also have to go back and rewrite scenes to include dialogue in parts I’ve just told the reader what was said, or what occurred. These steps will help a lot in determining when/where I need to correct more lines/scenes. i greatly appreciate the fact that you’ve given so freely of your time and talen to present these very helpful videos. You are a great asset to the craft – professionally as well, whether to beginners, or to established authors. Thank you.

  4. djtfontana says:

    Thank you for this very helpful video. Thanks, also, for the time and talent you share so freely with everyone. You are a true asset to all writers, professionally and motivationally. Great information.

  5. Abs says:

    Books that do it well? I think books like Philip Reeves Mortal Engines series, which are immersive but have had to describe (tell) some of the world to set the scene but not bored you to death.

    And you won’t be struck down by ‘writing gods’ for telling…. brilliant

  6. Rick Sherman says:

    Insightful video with some great points, thank you, Ellen. Backstory is the most difficult part of writing for me. How much to give? Is it too contrived? Anytime I have backstory to tell, I try to do it during dialogue, but anytime I can use the words, “remember when…” I take out the backstory and try and reword it to make it sound more natural. “Remember when you used to exercise a lot?” Instead I’d write, “It’s a good thing you’re still in shape from all that exercising you used to do,” or, “You’re in good shape, are you still exercising?” It takes some playing with, so I hope I’m doing it right. Anyway, thanks for addressing my major weakness in the video.

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