Larry Brody’s TV Writing Tips & Tricks #21 – Show Don’t Tell

by Larry Brody

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I’ve probably said this before, but since it’s THE most important aspect of writing for films and television it can’t hurt to say it again. SHOW what happens, don’t just tell about it.

This means that whenever possible the audience should see key events occurring onscreen. Don’t have Doctor Who gathering her companions together and telling them they have to save London from a new alien enemy. Instead, show her discovering the problem..

That’s right, I said “discovering.” As writers we have to present the series of events that create the need for the doctor’s response…and then the events that shape what the response is.

Sorry, but a simple, “Let’s do it,” isn’t enough. The audience needs  to understand what motivates the character, and to agree with the response. The only way to truly understand something is to participate in it. And when it comes to a TV episode the only way to approximate participating in an event is to SHOW it unfold before us.

Without a depth of understanding, identifying with the hero is almost impossible, and if we don’t enable the audience to identify with the hero, why the heck should they turn on the show or go to the film?

Another in what I hope will be a long run of helpful hints for TV writers here on TVWriter™ every week. Which brings up a point: If you’d like to share some writing tips with your fellow TVWriter™ visitors, please get in touch with me at and we’ll try to make a guest post happen.

Author: LB

A legendary figure in the television writing and production world with a career going back to the late ’60s, Larry Brody has written and produced hundreds of hours of American and worldwide television and is a consultant to production companies and networks in the U.S. and abroad . Shows written or produced by Brody have won several awards including - yes, it's true - Emmys, Writers Guild Awards, and the Humanitas Award.

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