How to “Show, Don’t Tell” in Writing With Active or Passive Scenes

We have actually all heard of passive vs. active sentences. Active sentences such as “three males stood by the gate” are more attractive and intriguing than passive sentences such as “there were 3 men standing by the gate.”

But the concept of active vs. passive can likewise be used to scenes within a story. Suitable use of passive and active scenes can offer your story an additional kick of life and can aid with pacing too.

What is an Active Scene?

An “active scene” can be comprehended as a form of “show do not inform” in writing. Instead of just lay out events that struck your readers, bring the occasion to today and make it take place in front of your readers instead. Its the distinction between telling someone a story and having them next to you, watching it take place.

Lets take this scene:

Mr. Norton greeted the butcher in the early morning. He does this every day, however the butcher, a rotund guy in his late forties, did not appear to bring his usual bright demeanor. Mr. Norton headed off to work and was left questioning what was incorrect.

This scene is great, however its about as interesting as listening to any story secondhand. It has little effect and can quickly be glossed over as possibly unimportant, since it checks out like an afterthought instead of a real occasion.

To bring the reader into the scene, make the action happen in front of them:

Possibly the author wants to show that Mr. Norton is a caring individual, or maybe on this particular day, he heads to work and notices that everybody around him appears to be in a dark mood, making the butcher just among many. Or possibly a murder happened however it has nothing to do with the butcher.

Active scenes are best used for real events that take location in the story and are needed for moving the story forward. This is the time to apply the guideline “show, dont tell” in your writing.


To practice composing actively or passively, produce a short scene and compose it in both types. Bear in mind the difference of Active = Show and Passive = Tell.

Active and Passive scenes both have their function and its crucial to know the appropriate times to utilize each.

When to Use Active and Passive Scenes.

Example: How to Tell the Butchers Story.

A Time for Each.

Take fifteen minutes to write. When youre done, share both variations in the comments listed below.

Lets take the scene with Mr. Norton and the butcher once again. What is the significance of this scene?.

An excellent story utilizes both active and passive scenes. There are times to both program and inform in composing. Understanding where and how to use each will assist you build a story that leads the readers through the most essential turning points while supplying background info with a soft touch..

An “active scene” can be comprehended as a form of “program do not tell” in composing. Its the distinction between informing someone a story and having them next to you, viewing it take place.

J. D. Edwin.

If the event being discussed is a “backstory” or just used to supply background details or character advancement, its much better to utilize a passive scene. Its actually better here to inform and disappoint.–.

But if the butcher is rather only “set dressing” or used to show some character element of Mr. Norton, then the scene would be better as passive.

Need a timely for your scene? Try this: Jess finds a wad of money on the ground.

” Morning, Ed,” Mr. Norton provided the male behind the meat counter his typical smile. After five years, their early morning greetings had become something of a ritual.
Ed glanced up from his work. He wiped his large hands, thick with bacon grease, on the apron hanging over his round belly.
” Hows company?”.
A dark cloud hung over the eyes of the normally joyful guy. He opened his mouth as if to say something else, but then turned away and busied himself with a haunch of beef.

Do you discover yourself writing more passive or active scenes? Share listed below in the comments.

Program, do not tell when an occasion plays a considerable function in the story. Inform, dont show when it will not advance the story.

The readers would certainly wish to be shown, not informed, about any and all interactions with the butcher.

If the butcher plays a considerable function in the story, then the scene ought to be active.

If the occasion being pointed out is a “backstory” or only utilized to offer background details or character advancement, its better to use a passive scene. Now the butchers dark mood could suddenly show guilt over a murder, and the story hinges on Mr. Norton making the link and solving this criminal activity.

Lets say Mr. Norton is about to discover that a murder has actually occurred in his house constructing the night after he notices the butchers dark mood. Now the butchers dark state of mind could all of a sudden indicate regret over a murder, and the story hinges on Mr. Norton making the link and solving this criminal offense.

An excellent story makes use of both passive and active scenes.

In this case, the reader doesnt require to squander a great deal of time checking out about each interaction..

It deserves keeping in mind that the passive scene can also be used as a “red herring,” misleading the reader to believe that the butcher has absolutely nothing to do with the murder by discussing him in this short manner, only to expose later on that he was the mastermind behind the criminal offense after all. This technique should be utilized carefully, as it could result in the readers seeming like somethings missing from the primary story arc or that essential characters were underdeveloped.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *