Guest Bloggers

Guest Blogger Margie Lawson: Give the reader a visual.

If you have written with me (Marlene), or if we have worked together on a writer/editor collaboration, you have heard me say “give the reader a visual.”  I’m so excited to discover Margie Lawson and her thoughts about visuals. The following is an excerpt from her May 20, 2016 guest blog post on Writers In The Storm.

Margie Lawson – Guest Blogger:

Most writers know Show Don’t Tell, but sometimes they think they’re showing when they are telling.

Here’s my oh-so-easy check.

Read the sentence that you think SHOWS the reader something.

Ask yourself —- What’s the Visual?

You may be surprised that the sentence doesn’t provide a visual.

Wondering why I care?

Wondering why I think you should care?

Most readers have a video playing in their mind of the scene they are reading.

If a writer TELLS instead of SHOWS, the reader’s screen goes blank. No imagery. No power.

When the writer TELLS, they’re sharing what the POV [point of view] character is thinking. They’re intellectualizing for the POV character.

The writer is not putting the emotional power on the page.


He looked angry.

She seemed agreeable to the plan.

He made a face.

She didn’t say anything, but he could tell she was pleased.

He knew she was nervous.

She looked like she wanted to go with him.

Jake seemed out of sorts.

If you’ve read one of my blogs before, or taken one of my online courses, or consumed one of my lecture packets, you know I always provide examples that support my teaching points.

Here comes the fun!

Example 1:

“Someone got hurt.”

She studied Susan’s face. “Are you okay?”

Whoops. What’s the visual?

We’re missing the subtext. We need to know Susan’s facial expression.

Example 2:

The POV character is watching Sam.

Sam moved around in an agitated manner.

What’s the visual?

Both parts of that short sentence are TELLING.

How did Sam move?

How does the POV character know Sam is agitated?

What’s his facial expression?

Example 3:

 Mike is the POV character.

Traci seemed upset. “I need to leave.”

Mike touched Traci’s arm. “Don’t leave. We need to talk.”

What’s the Visual?  Mike touched Traci’s arm, but the reader doesn’t know how Mike can tell Traci is upset.

The writer could SHOW, and share subtext, with Traci’s actions or face or voice.

Writers don’t need to add SHOWING to every sentence or paragraph. But many sentences need those visuals. They share the emotion, hook the reader.

Please click Margie Lawson’s Guest Blog Post to read the rest of Margie’s post on Writers In The Storm.

Margie Lawson—editor, international presenter—teaches writers how to use her psychologically-based editing systems and deep editing techniques to create page turners. Margie has presented over ninety full day master classes for writers in the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and on cruises in the Caribbean.

To learn about Lawson Writer’s Academy, Margie’s 4-day Immersion Master Classes, her full day Master Class presentations, on-line courses, lecture packets, and newsletter, please visit

Writers In The Storm – very cool blog with a fabulous resources list.

Writers In The Storm is a group of seasoned writers. We write in different genres and bring unique perspectives and strengths to the table.

Along the way, we’ve discovered that there’s more to life than writing, and sometimes life can be the richest story of all.

We chose Writers in the Storm as the name of this blog because every writer must weather the storm within: self doubt, rejection, deadlines and balancing our writing passion with everyday life. Not to mention the storm raging outside – the paradigm shift in the publishing industry.

We began this blog in April of 2010. Over the years, we’ve narrowed our focus, to writing craft and inspiration. Many writers have helped us on the path, and we hope to give a hand back to aspiring writers.

Writers in the storm



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  1. Kathy Myers

    Thanks Marlene for sharing Margie’s reminders about the importance of imagery. In the book Wild by Cheryl Strayed, the time spent describing the details of her “Monster” backpack gave the reader a visual talisman to hold in the journey through the story. Holden Caulfield’s deerstalker hat provided his talisman through the Catcher in the Rye.
    So much emotion can be expressed with gesture and body language. Adding the image of Traci jerking her arm away in response to Sam’s touch would speak volumes about her emotional state. An interesting exercise is to write a scene with just dialogue, as if it was a script, then add gestures— hand movements, eye contact, posture and other non-verbals. Notice where they add to the scene.

    1. mcullen Post author

      That is a great writing exercise, Kathy. . . write the dialogue, then add gestures. “Hmmmmm, you are giving me ideas,” she said, pounding the keyboard whilst moving her head, bird-like darts scanning the letters of the querty system.

  2. Kathy Myers

    Bird-like you say… hmmmm…. Another challenge for your readers and students would be to come up with a bird name for you ( or one for themselves.) I think you would be a “Curly Topped Smile Catcher” I would be the rare “Sulphur Crested Coot”.

    1. mcullen Post author

      Dear Sulphur Crested Coot,
      Thank you for my smiley name. However, I think of you more as the uncommon white-faced Ibis, comfortable with humans, winters in sunny So Cal and Mexico with iridescent plumage that shimmers in the sun. Yes, I think that is you.
      From your friend, The Curly Topped Smile Catcher. 🙂

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