‘Show don’t tell’ in fiction writing

An image showing a woman holding an image of a happy and sad theater face, portraying show don't tell.

Writing is more interesting and dynamic when you use the ‘show don’t tell’ technique. With ‘show don’t tell’ you use this technique, you let your readers experience the story through actions and words, feelings and senses instead of through your descriptions.

Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.

~ Anton Checkhov

Words to use to ‘show don’t tell’

Below you find ways to show different emotions instead of telling your reader how your characters feel.

* heart beating nonstop
* hands trembling
* knees shaking
* lips quivering
* screaming
* fast, heavy breathing
* covering eyes with your hands
* clenching onto things
* steam coming out of your ears
* eyes squinting
* red in the face
* huffing and puffing
* hands on hips while stomping feet
* veins popping out
* yelling at the top of your lungs
* clenching fists and gritting teeth
* shivering and teeth chattering
* body shaking uncontrollably
* trembling lips
* rubbing hands together quickly
* blowing heat on hands
* seeing your breath in the air
* having stiff muscles and joints
* bundling up in lots of clothing
* cheeks on fire
* blushing or turning red
* fighting back tears
* heart speed-racing
* wanting to disappear or hide
* head hanging low or looking away
* covering face with your hands
* stomach doing back flips
* hands waving in the air
* mouth open wide
* eyes bulging out of your head
* jumping up and down
* shouting out loud
* smile is a mile wide
* heart racing or pounding
* clapping hands
* crossing your arms
* pouting face
* tapping your foot
* clenching your fists
* putting your head in your hands
* turning read in the face
* rolling your eyes
* gritting teeth and breathing fast
* laughing merrily
* smiling from ear to ear
* cheekbones lifted high
* eyes wide open
* giggling uncontrollably
* all teeth showing
* jumping up and down
* on cloud nine
* dripping in sweat
* face beet red
* panting for breath
* boiling under blazing sun
* fanning self with hand
* wiping off sweat
* clothing drenched in sweat
* sun beating down on you
* heavy breathing
* red hot face
* clenched fists
* bulging veins
* stomping
* hands coiled into balls
* hands shaking
* flailing arms
* adrenaline pumping
* sweat
* butterflies in your stomach
* heart pounding out of your chest
* big lumps in your throat
* knees are wobbly like jelly
* twirling hair with your finger
* sweat palms/hands
* fidgeting with hands/clothing
* stumbling over words
* shifting weight from one side to other
* standing with your chin held high
* chest sticking out
* smiling big and wide
* standing nice and tall
* face beaming with light
* shoulders arched back
* a pat on the back
* eyes twinkling
* trembling lips
* head hanging low
* tears in eyes
* smile turned upside down
* slow, dragging feet
* shaky or quiet voice
* head held in your hands
* crying a river
* hands shaking
* knees like rubber
* breathing hard
* goose bumps
* neck/arm hairs standing on end
* teeth clattering
* heart pounding
* eyes wide open
* cold sweat
* eyes popping out
* gasping for air
* hands covering your mouth
* jumping up or back
* caught off guard
* heart beating fast
* can’t believe your eyes
* jaw dropped
* bashful eyes  looking down on feet
* speaking soft and quietly
* hiding behind things
* fiddling with hands or clothing
* staying away from others
* making little to no eye contact
* wanting to disappear or hide
* blushing or turning red
* face turning ‘green’/pale
* stomach doing back-flips
* can’t keep any food down
* head or body aching
* flushed cheeks
* body/heat is hot and feverish
* moving slowly, dragging feet
* bundling up under a blanket
* mouth wide open
* hands on face
* heart pumping
* eyes popping out
* holding chest/heart
* screamed/yelled
* jumped out of skin
* jaw hit the floor
* droopy eyes
* yawning
* mumbling when talking
* lounging around
* body dragging along
* rubbing eyes
* stretching arms out wide
* cannot keep head raised
* eyes watering or tearing up
* sweaty palms/hands
* mind racing a mile a minute
* biting bottom lip
* feeling sick to your stomach
* can’t sleep or focus
* pacing back and forth
* hear beating quickly

If you have any suggestions to add in order for other writers to get used to using ‘show don’t tell’, please consider sharing those in the comments section below, or starting a thread in our forums.

Image from Pixabay

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