Just remember, when it comes to show and tell, think roaches.

When Gregor wakes up like a cockroach, Kafka doesn’t tell you how alienated Gregor is, he shows you. When Frodo has sympathy for the disgusting Gollum, Tolkien shows us the burden of the Ring. When Holden Caulfield tells you that “those things bore me,” Salinger shows us that Holden cares a lot about those things. Showing is not using a metaphor to tell people what color a sunset is. Showing is using the allusive power of writing to inspire curiosity and empathy in the reader. It is the difference between expressing an idea explicitly or implicitly. Implicit is better, because it engages the reader in negotiating the meaning.

When Gregor wakes up like a cockroach, Kafka doesn’t tell you how alienated Gregor is, he shows you. When Frodo has sympathy for the disgusting Gollum, Tolkien shows us the burden of the Ring. When Holden Caulfield tells you that “those things bore me,” Salinger shows us that Holden cares a lot about those things. Showing is not using a metaphor to tell people what color a sunset is. Showing is using the allusive power of writing to inspire curiosity and empathy in the reader. It is the difference between expressing an idea explicitly or implicitly. Implicit is better, because it engages the reader in negotiating the meaning.

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