Turn the Tables on Mind Numbing Descriptions: Show, Don’t Tell

Want to learn how to write pretty prose? Read to see what writing elements to incorporate to improve your story!

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the Fault in Our Stars, The Book Thief, and The Lord of the Rings book covers on a neopolatian background.

Expressing emotions and capturing a character’s essence is like peeking through their eyes, getting cozy in their headspace. It’s about giving them a voice that feels like a familiar friend in your storytelling. You want to weave a tale that’s not just a story but an experience, right? But hey, let’s be real — diving into prose can feel like tightrope walking. It feels like it might hit or sink your story. But guess what? Embracing the challenge with a dash of imagination can turn a stoic bland piece into one of the most compelling reads.

The Golden Rule: Show, don’t tell. If I were to write “they walked in,”… it doesn’t hit as much as something like “the wood crackled like fireworks under their feet.” Suddenly, you’re not describing an entrance but painting a vivid scene that engages the reader’s mind.

How do we engage these eager reader minds? We use our secret weapons — metaphors, personifications, and symbolism. And with a sprinkle of faith, trust, and pixie dust, you have warped your book from “meh” to “God-tier writing skill.” These writing elements will add emotion to the words, depth to your writing, and a compelling story with a vivid aesthetic.

Metaphors and Similes

Metaphors and similes are the glitter of writing. It creates a vivid image by comparison, which in itself is so easy to imagine the picture. Many books do this, but one of my favorite examples of metaphors in storytelling is from anything written by John Green. In his book The Fault in Our Stars, he uses so many. The whole book is a metaphor just as much as there are cigarettes between Augustus Water’s teeth.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.
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My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Personification

Personification brings to life the very things that seemingly have no life. It projects a character’s thoughts and emotions through their lens of how this thing, inanimate and boring otherwise, is somehow the most interesting thing you ever read. It adds to the character’s voice and contributes to the ways they uniquely see the world. One great example is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
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This book is masterful. The entire novel is narrated by Death itself. Not a guy named Death… but Death! Death is personified not as a sinister figure but as a complex, compassionate entity that observes and interacts with the characters in the story.

Zusak even personifies books themselves, turning them into tangible beings. The books gain personalities, bonding with the main character, Liesel Meminger.

Symbolism

This one is my personal favorite. It can hit the reader on day one, or it can slowly burn until the reader thinks back and wonders about it daily. One of the greatest is, of course, The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.

The Fellowship of the Ring: Being the First Part of the Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
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There are so many symbols. The Shire symbolizes the peace and tranquility, innocence, and purity that strives to preserve itself against the world. There is the Ring, which symbolizes this force of temptation, and the more you wear it, the more you are tempted to let evil forces in.

I love this literal masterpiece! It is perfect, and if I wanted, I could go on forever about the genius of everything Tolkien, but alas, I must simply highly suggest this fantastic read.

As readers, we are drawn to stories that transport us, challenge us, and resonate with our shared experience. The importance of these writing elements lies in their ability to elevate storytelling to an art form, turning a collection of words into an immersive and unforgettable experience. So, the next time you find yourself lost in the pages of a book, take a moment to appreciate or learn from it!


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