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Writing Tips

Author Carolyn Abraham: Show, don't tell

The GG-nominated author, newspaper columnist and juror for the 2014 Creative Nonfiction Prize explains how writing is always better when you show—and worse when you tell.

quote-blue.jpgShow, don’t tell: An effective way to breathe life into nonfiction writing is by recreating scenes, complete with dialogue, to illustrate key points in a story. Rather than simply stating someone is extremely shy, for example, explain how this someone never makes eye contact with anyone, not even the coffee shop cashier. Or, instead of saying a person was very angry, describe this person stamping, cursing, and bellowing across a parking lot. Showing more than telling is a cinematic and powerful way to convey emotions and infuse action into a narrative. It’s also authentic and provocative, giving the reader an opportunity to interpret the significance of such scenes."

Carolyn Abraham is a Toronto-based journalist and bestselling author whose two books, Possessing Genius and The Juggler’s Children, were finalists for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction. The long-time former medical reporter for The Globe and Mail has received several national awards for her explorations of the advances reshaping the world, and telling human stories with a science bent.

Photo credit: Stephen Rouse

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