Descriptive Essay Show Not Tell

Descriptive Essay Show Not Tell-51
For example, an author could write:‘Sarah locked her front door, and, glancing at her watch, saw she was late for her train.She broke into a sprint and arrived four minutes later, out of breath, as the train pulled away.’Perhaps the reader doesn’t need so much detail about the mundane activity of catching a train.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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1)Proulx starts with plain telling to introduce the story.

Yet she shifts quickly after this first line into descriptive backstory that blends telling about Quoyle’s early years with details about his character:‘Hive-spangled, gut roaring with gas and cramp, he survived childhood; at the state university, hand clapped over his chin, he camouflaged torment with smiles and silence.’ (p.

1)Note how Proulx blends telling us about long-range character experiences (‘he survived childhood’) with small physical and emotional details about Quoyle. We form a sense of Quoyle’s lived, bodily reality when Proulx describes his ‘gas and cramps’.

Proulx also describes a character tic that she later expands on – how Quoyle claps his hand over his chin.

If we rewrote this same example of ‘showing’ as expository ‘telling’:‘That morning, Sarah had sprinted for the train but arrived seconds too late.’This telling simplifies, moving the story along quickly to the next piece of information.

‘That morning’ implies that the event precedes a more important piece of information (the consequences of Sarah’s lateness, for example).

This showing makes Mordor a visceral place of foreboding and ominous danger.

The actions associated with the surrounds are violent and negative, from the mountains ‘vomitting’ their entrails onto the lands to the light’s ‘reluctance’.

Proulx shows us Quoyle’s behaviour in specific moments, along with the broader sweep of his childhood. What makes Tolkien’s Mordor so real in his cycle is its sulfurous pits and gloomy, dark detail:‘The gasping pools were choked with ash and crawling muds, sickly white and grey, as if the mountains had vomitted the filth of their entrails upon the lands about.

Setting description is another area where you may be tempted to tell the reader more than show. High mounds of crushed and powdered rock, great cones of earth fire-blasted and poison-stained, stood like an obscene graveyard in endless rows, slowly revealed in the reluctant light.’In this passage from , Tolkien creates a visceral sense of Mordor as a place.


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