How “Show don’t Tell” means “Let the Reader Make Inferences”

Victoria Grefer talks about how “show don’t tell” means more than its prescriptive command. She also offers some salient examples about letting the reader notice what an author might instead tell. 🙂

Creative Writing with the Crimson League

One of my key rules for writers is, "Respect the reader." We do that by trusting the reader to make inferences and connections, rather than spelling all of them out. One of my key rules for writers is, “Respect the reader.” We do that by trusting the reader to make inferences and connections, rather than spelling all of them out.

“Show don’t tell” has become such a common refrain in the writers’ world that we’ve all heard it, and many of us have written about it. I’ve written before in defense of “telling,” because sometimes, it’s just what we need to do. It’s the simplest way to get from Point A to Point B, saving us elaborate and convoluted descriptions that “show” what we can “tell” much more easily.

Today, though, I want to address “showing.” Sometimes the distinction between the two gets fuzzy, but I’ve always thought of “showing” as “letting the reader make inferences.” When we “tell” something, we make that jump of inference for the reader.

People say let readers make inferences is superior to telling because:

  1. We…

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