SHOW Your Readers Your Love—Don’t Just Tell Them

by | Writing

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” —Anton Chekov


by MGDboston

by MGDboston

The most caring thing authors can do for their reader is to give them a great story. This means more than a creative, fresh plot. Authors must do the work to bring the reader into the story.


  • Readers expect an author to give them what they need to live the story.
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  1. Although, scared of what she imagined might happen, she ran into the woods.
  2. Avery disliked Mitch trying to make her admit her feelings for Jackson.

Below are the actual excerpts to the above sentences in which I told what happened. See how each author brings us into the moment of the story.

Excerpt 1: The Silent Governess by Julie Klassen:

by badeendjuh

by badeendjuh

Shivers of fear prickling over her skin, she hurled herself into the outstretched arms of the wood, already dim and shadowy on the chill of autumn evening. Beneath her thin soles, dry leaves crackled. Branches grabbed her like gnarled hands. She stumbled over fallen limbs and underbrush, every snapping twig reminding her that a pursuer might be just behind, just out of sight.

Comment: With the extra work Klassen did in showing me the character’s fear of the scary woods, I don’t have to do any more work than run my gaze over the words. I don’t have to come up with what the character’s fear felt like or what the woods looked like. I’m there with the character, trying to avoid the grabbing branches.

Excerpt 2: Dangerous Passage by Lisa Harris:

Image courtesy of Simon Howden /

Image courtesy of Simon Howden /

Mitch snapped on his seatbelt. “So how is he?”

She pressed her foot against the brake. “How is who?”

“Jackson Bryant. You can stop pretending. I’ve caught that daydreamy look in your eyes whenever the two of you are in the same room. Or on the phone together.”

Avery frowned. “It’s nothing.”


After a quick glance in then rearview mirror, she started for the station. She could always opt for leaving him on the street to find his own way back.

Comment: Harris takes the time to show us how detective Avery North learns partner Mitch’s circumstantial evidence for charging her with budding feelings toward Jackson. Detectives detecting on and off the clock. Clever.

Then Harris shows us how Avery feels about Mitch as she considers kicking him out of the car. We’re right inside her disgruntled thoughts. In Harris’s story, the banter continues.


  • Authors who love their readers show instead of tell what happens in their stories.
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However, sometimes showing is unsuitable. That’s the subject for next week’s post.

Which authors do you think do well at drawing the reader into the story?

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American Christian Fiction Writers

American Christian Fiction Writers

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