Creative Writing Lessons - Lesson 3: Showing Versus Telling

This is Lesson 3 of the CWN creative writing lessons for teaching fiction. To start with Lesson 1 of the syllabus,click here.

The course reading assignments all come from Charles Baxter's story collection, A Relative Stranger.

Fiction writing syllabus - Lesson 3: Showing versus telling.

Lecture material: How to Write Fiction That Comes Alive

Discussion topic: Ask the class how an author can show that John is sad, that Elena is nervous, that Chang is angry without saying, "John is sad," "Elena is nervous," "Chang is angry"? Have them work in groups to come up with ten things that people they know do when sad, nervous, or angry. Encourage them to think beyond the obvious.

Creative writing game: "Your character has a secret." Give each student a slip of paper with a different statement about a fictional character; for example:

  • Mayra can't cook
  • Joel cheated on the test.
  • Karin hates Mary.
  • Nitin is afraid of his boss.
  • Elena is jealous of her sister.
  • Chris just kissed Sergio's girlfriend.

The students have five minutes to write some sentences that show the information they've been given without telling it. Then they pair up to read their partners' sentences and guess the secret.

Homework: Students write a scene that shows a secret fear of the character whose profile they created as their previous homework. They have the choice of creating a new character profile for this assignment if they prefer. Students read "Scissors" by Charles Baxter to prepare for the next class.

See more creative writing lesson:

Go on to Lesson 4 (Showing Versus Telling, Continued).

See a full list of lessons in this syllabus.

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