Show, Not Tell

writing a book, publishingFiction writers are urged to show, not tell, that is have the characters do something that demonstrates their personality, state of mind and the situation, rather than simply describe these things.

Dan that work in a nonfiction book? In a business book?

Yes. Rather than think in terms of how characters display their personalities, think of how your methods have achieved results.

Readers want to see what has worked, and how it’s worked. Your simply saying that something worked without providing details of this is the business-book equivalent of telling, not showing.

Here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • In describing your process or method, give us examples of its success. What happened when you yourself applied your methods? Did you get from point A to point B?
  • Use numbers to prove the point. If your business or process involves making more money or increasing business, then give us real-world examples. A company using your process might have gone from $1 million to $5 million in sales (or have saved the equivalent amount in efficiency). This gives the reader something actual.
  • Back up your promises with facts. This is where real-world examples really work. You can promise that your method will jump-start a business, but how? Who used it and what happened?
  • Use the facts to build your argument, then state your argument. For instance, if your book will demonstrate how someone can build a business that generates increased profits quickly, give us a story of someone who did just that. Then when you tell us what you’re all about, you’ve already shown us and we’re more likely to believe you.
  • Use that fiction-writing technique to make your case studies or anecdotes that much more powerful. Show us your clients or customers as they go through your process – treat them as real-life characters – and you’ll have us there with you living through the actuality of your methods.

Readers will respond to your business book’s arguments if they’re always backed up by facts that prove you can walk the talk, that is, show rather than tell us why we should listen to what you say.

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