Show and (don’t) Tell

Hello class!

I hope you all managed with the exercise in “Show, don’t tell” today! There are lots of resources on this topic and I encourage you to have a look around for articles and blogs for pointers on how to improve your writing using this tactic.

Here is but one:

I want you all to think about how a setting can even “show” the atmosphere you’re trying to create. For instance, if you’re trying to develop tension in your narrative essays, there are many ways to go about it without stating “It was tense”. Sometimes, developing your setting in a particular way can help do that work for you.

Have a look at the following extract. It’s from Bryony Rheam’s This September Sun (2009).

[So I was trying to think of a terrible pun for this blog post. Best I could do was “This September Pun”. Weak sauce. I’ve spared you all.]

“December came. Hints of unrest and further economic instability breathed uneasily through parched, rainless days. I had never known such a dry end of year. Storm clouds gathered often, then dispersed. At night we tossed in sweat-drenched sheets and woke exhausted in the early morning heat. I slept with just a sheet to cover me and the windows open on the clear star-filled skies. The wind hardly moved and often, when I couldn’t sleep, I would go and sit outside and think, the night thick and warm around me. Talk of people emigrating hung above us like the sky that stretched white-blue and unrelenting, a never-ending migraine”

What can you say about how the setting produces a particular effect? Are vocabulary choices working to help it along? What is being indirectly said?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts!


Ms Roberts



  1. It’s saying that it’s very hot and unbearable, and that it rains a lot. It doesn’t say “it was so hot”, instead, it shows you “we tossed in sweat-drenched sheets”. The vocabulary contributes to the effect, for example, “drenched” is a much more powerful word to describe how wet the sheets were. Saying they sweat so much that their sheets were drenched is sort of exaggeration and makes the heat seem hotter than it actually was. The writer seems to make the person miserable and a “lazy tone” shows when you read it.

    Liked by 1 person


  2. The writer has used very interesting elements in this passage. By giving the economic and social unrest afflicting their country(given the month of the year) a human quality by ”breathing heavily”(I don’t remember the words) the passage has a very authentic atmosphere. the tension is very palpable.

    Liked by 1 person


  3. I enjoyed reading this extract! The language that the writer uses to describe the atmosphere around him was just brilliantly complementary towards the genre of the story, which would be informative. Not only that, but the story also gives an element of feeling exhausted and perhaps, nothing good can ever come. Personification was used in a very clever way to paint an image of how dry the land was. The tone of the writer suited the story brilliantly as, it sounded as if he was so over life and was tired of everything.

    Liked by 1 person


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