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Show Don't Tell

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  • "Don't tell me the old lady screamed, drag her in here and show me her screaming." -Mark Twain

    In other words, don't use simple statements to tell readers about important events in your stories, use detail and strong active language to bring the event to life! Write down the strategies below and take notes on the video below as well. Reference the strategies and notes from the video to help develop your skills.


    Note: You can scroll side to side on this page to see all of the video!

    Although Harper Lee's writing in To Kill a Mockingbird has been described as "simple", she does a great job of showing and not telling us what is going on. Refer to her description of Maycomb in chapter one:

        Maycomb was an old town, a tired old town when I first knew it. In rainy weather the streets turned to red slop; the grass grew on the sidewalks. There was a courthouse that sagged in the square. Somehow, it was hotter then; a black dog suffered on a summer's day; mules hitched to carts flick flies in the sweltering shade of the live oaks on the square. Men's stiff collars wilted by nine in the morning. Ladies bathed before noon and after there three-o'clock naps, yet by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum. People moved slowly then. They walked across the square, shuffled in and out of the stores around it, took their time about everything. A day was twenty-four hours long but seemed longer. There was no hurry, for there was nowhere to go, nothing to buy and no money to buy it with. Nothing to see outside the boundaries of Maycomb County.

    We can feel and experience what Maycomb is like.

    You will now read chapter two of the book. As you read chapter two, try to notice how much Harper Lee shows us the story instead of telling us what is going on. Remember, you must go onto Actively Learn in order to read the book. There will be no questions to complete but you will need to complete the assignment that follows. In this assignment you will practice showing and not telling.