The Novel Series: Showing vs Telling - Remote!

Friday, September 4th, 10:30am-1:30pm (EST)
Remote! (Live Zoom Meetings)
See Map
Level: For Everyone
Adult (18+)
This class is full

One of the most common axioms in writing is “show don’t tell.” “It was an eerie night,” for example, can be more evocatively conveyed by describing the pallid moonlight, the ragged clouds casting wavering shadows on finger-like branches, or the wind whining like a lonely dog through the tree-tops. In many cases, “show don’t tell” is a useful and effective maxim. But focus too intently on imagery, similes, and vivid description, and you risk losing the story’s momentum and alienating readers with overly stylistic prose. Sometimes, the best method of telling a memorable story is to write simply and candidly, using metaphor and simile only when they will heighten the narrative, and being direct—“telling” readers what they need to know—when the aim is to move the plot forward or to establish without ambiguity a character’s emotions. We will look at examples from such writers as Elizabeth von Arnim, Kiran Desai, John Williams, and Tim Winton and experiment with showing versus telling in a series of in-class writing exercises. By the end of the seminar, you’ll have a deeper understanding of when to employ these different narrative styles and why.

Part of GrubStreet's Novel Essentials Series, led by Ursula DeYoung and dedicated to exploring the fundamental building blocks of the novel. Classes include:

  • Novel Essentials: Pacing
  • Novel Essentials: Narrative Perspective
  • Novel Essentials: Finding, Signing, and Dealing with Agents
  • Novel Essentials: Showing vs. Telling
  • Novel Essentials: Introducing Characters
  • Novel Essentials: Arcs and Endings
  • Novel Essentials: Narrative Style

This class will be hosted using live Zoom meetings! You will be able to participate in class via Zoom videoconference from wherever you’re most comfortable. All you’ll need is a laptop or a phone! About 15 minutes before your class is scheduled to begin, you'll receive an email from your instructor with a link to join the class meeting via Zoom–no need to download anything or sign up for Zoom in advance! If you have questions about remote learning, please feel free to reach out to [email protected] for more information.

For a glimpse at how remote learning works, look no further than the deep Zoom discussion of writing and literature below:

Scholarship Information

Thanks to the excellent literary citizenship of our donors, scholarships are available for all GrubStreet classes. To apply, click the gray "APPLY FOR SCHOLARSHIP" button. In order to be considered for a scholarship, you must complete your application at least one week before the start date of a class. Please await our scholarship committee's decision before registering for the class. We cannot hold spots in classes, so the sooner you apply, the better. Scholarships cannot be applied retroactively.

For more more detailed information about GrubStreet scholarships, including how to contribute to scholarship funds for other students, click here.

  • -


grubstreet Image
Ursula DeYoung
See Bio

Previous Students Say

  • "Inspired Me to Write More"
  • "Inundated with great info"


  • Study Published Writing
  • Class Discussion
  • In-Class Writing


  • The Novel

Commitment Level



Need a scholarship?

Learn more