Finding the words to show, not tell


“There is nothing more difficult for a truly creative painter than to paint a rose,
because before he can do so he has first to forget all the roses that were ever painted.”

[Henri Matisse]

Description, we’re told, is best achieved not in telling, but in showing — not in saying it’s raining, but in helping the reader feel raindrops on his face. (Who said that, BTW?) If Henri Matisse thinks painting a rose is difficult, he should try describing one! That God can even create such perfection leaves me without words.

How about you? Could you write a sentence or two that would allow readers to experience the fragile blush, the satin texture, of this beauty?


Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.”
[Jeremiah 32:17 NIV]



Published by Carol

A freelance writer of fiction and non-fiction living on the West Coast of Canada.

13 thoughts on “Finding the words to show, not tell

  1. Beautiful! And the individual scents He puts on them…there is a patch of roses on our waterfront that has not the most lovely blooms, but the scent is so fragrant, you just want to stand there and inhale 🙂

    1. The fragrance on these roses is faint… delicate, but sweet. There’s nothing like that wonderful rose fragrance… so distinctive. The one rose bush down by the back arbor is very fragrant, but it’s not very hardy and the bush isn’t doing well this year. 😦

  2. Carol,
    One of the things I have been working on is showing, not telling! But it’s hard—I’d rather TELL!
    Another writer gave a great example of how to teach ourselves. She said while she was watching TV she hates the commercials. So one night after muting a commercial she forgot to “unmute” the show she was watching. She started describing what she was seeing—- I thought that was a great “tool”.
    Great post—-and absolutely beautiful picture!!!!
    Hugs to you my sweet friend

  3. I doubt I could do an adequate job. The rose is just so perfect. Soft, velvety petals, that when they caress your skin, you think of nothing but the delight of its touch.

    Can you imagine a world without roses? No, neither can I.

    Thanks, Carol. Beautiful photos.

    1. A world without roses? No, definitely not! Every home we’ve ever lived in has had a few rose bushes, but they don’t do well here. It’s too shady and the soil is too acidic because of the trees, but I keep trying. We have just one right now, and it’s not looking very healthy. The ones in this post are from a bouquet brought by guests Saturday evening.

  4. What an amazing photo! I wrote some verses for the summer about rose, though it isn’t specifically about this one. It look too perfect for words.

    Where summer’s pink pedals unfurled, fragrance escaped in tiptoed dances.

    I’d have to think a bit more about what could describe your snow pink beauty though!

    1. Ah, Tianyu, that’s lovely. You and Diana have found wonderful words! Your “blush spread through tiptoed dances” reminds me of when I was trying to take a photo this afternoon… of a soft pink peony that kept dipping and dancing in the breeze, making it difficult to focus the camera.

  5. Layer upon layer of pink perfection, spiraling out in response to the warmth of the sun; a fragrance colored by the dawn; an earth-rooted seashell, washed by the tide.

    GLORIOUS photo, wonderful invitation, Carol. Thank you.

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