The Art of Writing

A Writers Retreat in Tuscany

Showing Not Telling

Showing not TellingMy Pet Peeve; show you are in Italy, don’t write it. There are one thousand ways to reveal that you are somewhere in Italy rather than patently writing ‘Italy,’ as I taught this week up at Vincigliata Castle.

Fortunately I taught a One Day Writing From a Sense of Place event last week. I say fortunately because there is nothing like teaching a class about showing rather than telling to make you go over your own writing to make sure that the obvious is not being stated but instead, written.

Showing not Telling

This is a small part of what we discussed in class before we went up to Vincigliata Castle to get into the sense of writing from place. When writing about Italy, try not to use the words Italy, Tuscany or Florence. How can you show your readers that you are in these places without telling them precisely?

Wrack your brain to think of different and interesting ways to present Italy:

If you smell coffee and see someone licking a cappuccino moustache off their top lip, where are you likely to be?

If a man walks in with a helmet and MARIO written across the back of it, where are you likely to be?

Showing not Telling

If you’re at a dinner party, restaurant or cocktails and the wine is predominately Sangiovese, an exclusively Tuscan grape, where are you likely to be?

If the noise of an Ape drowns out your conversation walking down the street, as your heels get caught in cobblestones, where are you likely to be?

Showing not Telling

Go on…you too! Make observations that reveal you are in Italy. Obviously you have to pursue and extrapolate these scene details to complete the image of being in Italy, but anything rather than saying We Are in Italy. Telling your readers where you are (God FORBID in the first sentence!) is a major pet peeve of mine. It’s pure lazy writing. This applies for everywhere your character is in your book. There are one thousand ways you can reveal where you are, rather than saying it!

Showing not Telling

Maybe one day you can join us in Tuscany and we can further discuss these thoughts!
Showing not Telling



    6 March, 2016 at 9:12 pm

    Hi Lisa, I would have loved to be at that work shop! Creating a sense of place without telling is an art form and yet so necessary especially if you are writing memoir. Otherwise it reads like a very boring description rather than an adventure that you take your readers on with you. Tx for sharing. Bronte

    • mm
      Lisa Clifford

      11 March, 2016 at 4:40 pm

      Hello, Bronte,
      Thanks for reading. I would have loved to have you at the workshop. Showing certainly is an art form as you said, but it’s absolutely essential in order to transport our readers into our stories.

  2. Fred, Art of Writing, Sept 2014

    7 March, 2016 at 4:39 am

    The tip of his tongue gently collected the milky froth from his smiling lips, but anyone who chose to kiss those lips, and some at the café seemed interested, would taste salt. He had just returned from a mid-morning surf and parked his bike and board against the peeling trunk of the shady eucalyptus out front. The cafe was jammed with all forms of coffee addicts who found ample reason not to be at work just then. . .
    Lisa, just to remind you about all of the milk froth enthusiasts who frequent the coffee bars and cafes all over Australia.

    • mm
      Lisa Clifford

      11 March, 2016 at 4:36 pm

      Hi, Fred,
      Mmm, I’m looking forward to my next cappuccino. You must be really missing us over in Australia. All the creative ideas that I’m sure you’re just itching to put on paper.

    • LOL you made me homesick for Australia, love from this aussie girl who is about to light the fire to warm her rock house x

      • Hi RI (renovatingitaly – but that seems a bit long, especially after two coffees, or more to the point, a couple of beers),
        Sounds like you’re facing an Under the Tuscan Sun adventure. Hope you have lots of patience and perseverance for the task. I’m sure you have taken some good Aussie traditions with you – caring for your workers, ample time outs for just about any reason, no work on Saturdays & Sundays, and lots of long weekends. In between, huge amounts of hard yakka to get the job done. Keep in touch with progress reports. Cheers, Fred

        • mm
          Lisa Clifford

          14 March, 2016 at 12:11 pm

          Hi again Fred,
          yes, Lisa from Renovating Italy is doing an AMAZING job with her husband Sam renovating her home in northern Italy. Look her up – she is on social media (hi Lisa!).
          Hope you’re writing like mad Fred and thanks so much for your free writing thoughts on this Blog post.
          Miss your creativity 🙂
          Keep in touch!

      • mm
        Lisa Clifford

        14 March, 2016 at 12:15 pm

        Hi Lisa,
        yes, Fred made me homesick for Australia too!
        Gosh I miss the surf and the smell of the salt sea air.
        Am over the winter – you must really be over it up there in the north.
        Take care and stay warm Lisa and you too Fred!

  3. Another serendipitous post Lisa! A friend I met at Lisa Heidke’s course at the AWC were just discussing ‘showing vs telling.’ I have sent her the link to this post.

    Your course sounded fabulous, especially being set amidst the beauty of Vincigliata Castle. Oh how I adore the history of these old buildings. I get excited gazing up at the exquisite sandstone buildings when in Melbourne but oh how they pale in comparison to a 13th century medieval castle!

    I turn 50 in 2018 and am planning a trip to Europe and England to celebrate. My wish is to attend your Art of Writing course as part of my visit:-) In the interim, do you ever plan on running courses back on your home soil? I would be there in a heartbeat.

    Buona pasqua.

    A presto. Shell.x

    • mm
      Lisa Clifford

      31 March, 2016 at 2:48 pm

      Hello, Shell,
      Thanks as always for taking the time to read my blog.
      Vincigliata Castle was very inspiring – I just loved every minute there. But the sandstone buildings are GORGEOUS too. I think we’re just too used to them.
      It would be such a joy to have you at The Art of Writing! I don’t have any retreats planned at the moment back in Australia, but you never know.
      Keep writing,
      Lisa x

      PS sounds like it will be a spectacular 50th!

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