I've been thinking a lot about writing tips recently, simple things that can really improve how you communicate with others. One of the most common, which appears in all the best Writing 101 courses, is "Show, Don't Tell".

Although a simple idea, it is a common stumbling block for new, and even established, writers. The basic concept is as follows: allow your readers to experience feelings, actions and emotions rather than using narrative description or summary.

For example, don't tell people "The mood was gloomy", describe how "Carl and James sat in silence, wondering what had gone wrong."

Showing things to the reader can often flow better - it is less jarring to be fed all the elements of the story using direct (and often tedious) narrative. Showing involves subtlety, you build up a picture in the readers mind that communicates an emotion, or a setting. That doesn't mean a meticulous description of, for example, a sinister character. Picking a few key features to communicate should be enough - and allowing the reader to fill in the blanks is actually beneficial to your communication of the scene.

Tell, Don't Show

Here's an important point, however. Above I said it "can" improve your work. As with any writing style, "showing" can be overused. When it is misused things tend to get lengthy and confusing; showing the reader everything can distract them from the important parts (such as, oh I don't know, the plot!).

Good writers pace their work, speeding through descriptions that are not important and detailing the scenes which are. It's rather like a tour of an art gallery with an enthusiastic guide, who rushes you past several paintings with cursory explanation before arriving at the masterpiece and exclaiming "there, look at that!".