Cheating

There are many ways to cheat, some affect life more than others. Some not at all. You can cheat yourself, you can cheat others and you can cheat death… well maybe.

Cheating is a broad word that applies to so much and so many things. For this blog’s purpose I’m going to talk about one. and it’s not the scandalous one either. I’ll save that for another post.

I’m talking about when someone avoids telling emotional state by putting emotions in dialogue instead of showing them. I discuss Show VS. Tell a lot. There is a reason for it and I’ve talked a lot about that too. Showing draws the reader in, it makes them feel welcome and a part of the story. I strive for showing emotions constantly after all nobody likes to be told how to feel about a character or the situation. I digress.

To show emotion I use action and action tags following dialog. I also use visual emotional words.

“I don’t think I can.” Valery said sadly.
VS.
“I don’t think I can.” Valery looked down and sighed.

The temptation to add an emotion description after ‘sighed’ is strong, but it’s unnecessary. Sure changing it adds word count, but instead of telling the reader she is sad, I showed them she is sad. The point is to keep the emotion ‘tell’ out of the narrative.

Now that is how I address emotional telling outside the conversation. Not as easy as it seems, that’s why people (including myself) revert to telling emotion. (Until I revise the crap out of it)

So what happens when someone follows the rule of Show not tell, and cheats? Well it looks something like this.

“I’m sad, I don’t think I can.” Valery said. 

Okay so the emotion is out of the narrative like it’s supposed to be. And it’s totally okay for a person to say how they feel. From time to time. By that I mean, like almost never. Also the ‘Valery said.’ falls under “he said – she said” taglines. Less is more on the dialogue tags (IMO). They are a verbal period that hammers the end of a sentence and too much can  punch the flow. I digress again.

The question is, how does cheating by plopping ’emotion telling’ into dialogue affect a story?

They pulled the car up to the house.
“I’m sad, don’t think I can.” Valery said.
Jackson smiled reassuringly. “I know it’s hard and you miss your friend.”
“I do. Ugh and I’m angry and frustrated that I can’t do anything to help her.”
“I can see it makes you angry. I don’t like when you’re upset, It bothers me.” Jackson said quietly. “Maybe there is something you can do indirectly to help.” 
“Like what?” 
“By doing what you came here to do Valery. You are a kind and loving friend to take care of her house and collect her mail until she get’s back. Come on, let’s go get Sasha’s mail so I can take you home and make you feel better.” He said suggestively.
“That sounds like a fair deal and makes me feel better.” She said with a sly smile. 

Gag. Okay, sure people announce how they feel in real life, but as a reader I don’t care to read them say it too often. It does not lend to my vivid imagery I create from words. I want more from a story than to be told she’s sad and angry and frustrated. For me I seem to become wordy when I start telling, the trouble is the wordiness isn’t quality, it’s filler and repetitive. (Yes this is what revision is for, review it, see it and fix it.)

Valery’s smile faded as the car pulled up to the house. “I don’t think I can.” 
Jackson rubbed her shoulder. “I know it’s hard to miss a friend.”
“I do. Ugh.” She slammed her fist on her knee. “I hate that I can’t do anything to help her.”
Jackson took her fist in his hands and kissed it. “Maybe there is something you can do indirectly to help.” 
She looked out the window at the empty house. “Like what?”
“By doing what you came here to do Valery; she’ll appreciate it when she get’s back. Come on, let’s go get Sasha’s mail so I can take you home and make you feel better.” His eyes slid over her body causing her breath to catch in her throat.
“Sounds like a fair deal.” She smiled slyly and opened the car door.

I have no idea if you agree or not, unless you tell me in the comments, but I think it’s safe to say by removing the emotions from the dialogue (where they shouldn’t have been in the first place) and showing them made a difference. It took some editing and I changed it a fair bit, but to show requires more information. It allows the reader to feel the story not just read it helping the reader to relax into the story.

My advice about cheating by telling emotion in dialogue too often.
Telling is telling and nobody likes to be told what to do and how to feel about a situation, therefore a reader wont either. 

-Sheryl

Other posts that are very much related to this one
Show and tell

Tag! You’re it.

No “Filter Word” Parking Here

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Relax

Ouch! My feelings!

Sometimes a character gets stuck on repeat. They just can’t get over an idea or past one. They will ask the same questions, do the same things and all because they just cant move forward. There are various reasons for this happening, perhaps it’s distrust or disbelief in another person. They might be confused or at their wit’s end. Perhaps they just don’t have a clue what to do or how to proceed. Whatever the case may be, it can make for fantastic drama and hurt feelings.

It had been a very long day. Tack on four hours of emergency overtime and the worlds most awkward late dinner and Amber was done.
Dale buttoned his coat as they left the restaurant. “I still don’t see why we had to play catch up for Sasha. It’s not our fault she disappeared.”
“You said that already.” Amber shoved her hands in her jacket pockets. “Three times.”
“Sorry. I’m…” Dale looked off to the distance.
“I get that this is weird and horrible and super sucky but you’re acting cold. You’re not a cold person Dale.”
He looked sideways at her, Scott’s words from earlier picking at his brain. “Are you sure, I mean a hundred percent certain it’s mine?”
Amber closed her eyes, exhaustion and frustration frayed her patience. “Why the hell would I lie about something like this?” She stopped walking and looked about. The closest people were far enough away not to hear. “Of all the damned things Dale why would I make this up? Do you think I want it to be you?” She shook her head. “Yeah, I’m a trashy little moron that thinks I can pin a pregnancy on any dupe. It’s not like there’s any magical mystical way to prove paternity.” She waved her hands and rolled her eyes.
“Yeah but are you sure?”
“Yes I’m sure.”
“What if it’s not? How would I know?” His words seethed with contempt.
“I may be a lot of things Dale, but I’m not a liar about serious things and I don’t sleep around. Not for real.”
“But it could be someone else’s. You’ve taken a few guys home in the past few weeks.”
“I haven’t.” Amber frowned at his angry face. “Screw you Dale.”
“Isn’t that what got you in this mess?”
She opened her mouth, shut it with a snap and stormed off.
He sighed and watched her walk away. It would be stupid to lie about this. Jogging after her, he caught up and grabbed her arm. “I’m sorry. It’s just Scott said-“
“Scott?” She turned a furious face to him. Of course Scott. She forgot all about her campaign to make him jealous. It didn’t work, but for some reason she kept doing it. Maybe she got a kick out of it.
“He said he saw you leave with men and get into an Uber taxi.”
“You can just say Uber.” She thought a moment. “I don’t know why I need to prove anything to you. I don’t know why I care at all what you think. Call Scott and ask him if he remembers the colour of the Uber car.”
Dale took out his phone with narrowed eyes. They started walking and Amber stopped in front of a bar. while he called.
“Well?” She asked as he put his phone away.
“White, he said it was weird but you always took a white cab.”
“Okay. My turn.” She took her phone out and sent a text. “Now when the car gets here, act drunk and like you’re going to get lucky.”
“Why?”
“Just do it.” She put her arm around his waist and leaned in. Two minutes later a white car pulled up. Dale started pawing and whispering nothing to her. Giggling she got in and he followed. “Hi Tom.”
“Hey Amber.” The driver scowled at Dale who was nibbling her neck. He pulled away from the bar, drove two blocks, pulled over and got out. Amber pushed Dale away as Tom opened the door on Dales side. “Ride’s over. Get out man, don’t make me pull you out.”
“What?” Dale sounded as confused as he looked.
“Get out, She’s not interested.”
“But?” Dale looked at Amber as she shrugged and smirked.
He got out, watched the white car drive away, took out his phone and sent Amber a text. “WTF?”
She replied. “I never take them home, it was just a show to make Scott jealous.”
“It it Toms?”
“Ass. Tom is my brother
.”

Dale stood there for a few minutes realizing she wasn’t coming back. With pursed lips he sent another text. “Is it Scott’s?
FU Drop Dead.”
He read her response a few times as he walked the short distance home. He glanced at his phone as a text came in. “I H8 U. Not UR problem anymore. UR off the hook, so relax .”
Dale punched his apartment door as he closed it behind him. “Ow, son of a-” He went to the kitchen to get some ice shaking his hand. “No doubt she’s bawling her eyes out.” He sighed and cursed discovering he had no ice. He closed the freezer and leaned his head on it. “Dammit.”

Dammit indeed. When I write characters that are under stress I try to remember to make them act a bit irrational and emotional. Creating tension and unhappiness is one of many options to bring a character down before they can get back up. Sometimes as the writer I feel the need to kick them when their down and see what their made of. I’m not sure where these two will go, neither are nice people.

My advice about hurting feelings.
It’s bound to happen, so go for gold and crush their make-believe hearts. Make em cry, ’cause seriously where else can you be totally malicious and hurt someones feelings with no real consequence? *insert evil laugh* writing is fun.

-Sheryl

Other posts

The FAB pencil

Getting a little touchy feely

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Mystical

Turmoil of the innermost kind

Emotions are the essence of who we are. They are easy to write internalized and hard to show. I’ve been showing one at a time and probably will with more. But what happens when someone is in turmoil? When their emotions fly but they can’t express them verbally or externally? I don’t write in first person so this can be tricky to express. For this show and not tell excercise it’s all about what a character does do when they can’t necessarily express their true emotions or thoughts.

Sometimes a person has too much going on and those around them add to the chaos generally unaware. While Sasha is dealing with her own abundance of problems, Amber, her tormentor has to deal with her own.

Amber’s hands shook as she rinsed them in the warm water. She looked at her tired reflection, frowning at the worry around her eyes.  “What are you going to do now?” Blinking back tears, she took several deep breaths before returning to her desk.

“Hey Ambs, feeling better today?” Dale chewed on the end of his pen.
She sat slowly. “Sure.”
“I’m back to myself too, wanna do lunch? Scott has a lunch meeting thing.”
She rubbed her sweaty palms on her skirt. “Yeah sure.” Biting her lip, she turned to her computer. The unfocused screen too bright. There wasn’t anyone to talk to, nobody to confide in. With a sideways glance at Dale chatting away on the phone, she drummed her fingers on the desktop.
A slight smile etched the corner of her mouth. “Maybe it could be a good thing.” She mumbled and closed her eyes. “Yeah right and hell is a tropical vacation.”

Amber opened her eyes to see Rachael approaching with a stern posture. She had made her point and everyone stopped picking on her.

“Hey Amber, you okay?”
Amber opened her mouth to snip and smiled instead. “Sure Rachael. What can I do for you?”
With a raised eyebrow, Rachael held out a glittery pink card. “You’re the only one who hasn’t signed Alice’s congratulations card. If you want to chip in on the gift that would be nice.”

“Gift?” The word echoed in her head as Amber took the adorable card with a cartoon baby on the front.
“I’m picking something up at lunch, we’ll give it to her before she leaves today. What a wonderful thing. Isn’t it exciting?”

“Exciting?” Amber read over a few comments, all well wishes, happy comments and words of joy. It sounded like a good thing and not the end of the world. Smiling she wrote a small meaningful congratulations and swallowed hard as she handed it back. “How much?”

“Um, whatever you can spare is fine.” Rachael tucked the card in the envelope skepticism easy to see.

Amber dug out her wallet. Dale was openly listening now with rapt interest. What if this was her? Would anyone bother with card for her? Amber held her breath and handed her a fifty.

“I’ll get you change.”
“No.” Amber waved her hand. “It’s fine. I could do with some good karma.”
“Thanks.” Rachael turned and left quickly.
“You know that’s not how it works right?” Dale smirked. “You can’t ask for good karma, you earn it.”
“Whatever.” Amber clenched her fists staring at her screen.
“Besides if you want to make up for the crap you pull you’d need to give at least fifty thousand more.”
“Shut up Dale, or you fly solo for lunch.”
“Russo’s?”
She avoided looking at him as her eyes misted and she nodded. Russo’s was fine, the food was good and the atmosphere quiet enough.

Poor mean Amber right? Even the bad guy’s are human. I think it’s important to make even the most disliked people somewhat likable. Even if during her only moment of kindness she was being selfish. An interesting side story is always welcome IMO so I generally include them in my writing.

My advice about inner turmoil.
Be careful with the POV, stick with one and try not to jump in and out of character’s heads. It can get disorienting.

-Sheryl

Other posts

It’s funny you said that…

The FAB pencil

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Echo

Show and tell

Emotions are something we deal with constantly everyday. When I first started writing I told the emotions instead of showing them. ‘She was angry.’ This was lazy and hard to read. I read blogs, articles and some of the books out there such as Master lists for writers and the Emotion thesaurus. Why? Because showing emotion is a lot harder than saying it. Also because emotion generally fell within conversation and ended up at taglines. I read blogs, books and articles Learning more every time.

Here is a telling emotional conversation from my rough draft.

“Are you calling me stupid?” Erin said angrily.

Sam was glad the beds were between them and felt brave for some strange reason.

“No, but you’re acting it.” Sam said forcefully. She did not want to do this, but she was committed and had had enough of her nasty attitude.

“Insult me again Sam and you’ll be sorry.”

“I won’t be sorry Erin, because I didn’t insult you.”

“You did!” Erin shouted angrily.

“No, I said your actions were stupid.”

“It’s the same dammed thing.” She growled.

 As discussed in Tag you’re it this is a rough draft loaded with taglines and I’m telling the emotion not showing it. This is hard to read. Here is the correction.

 “Are you calling me stupid?” Erin took a step forward curling her lips back.

Sam glanced down at the two beds between them. “No, but you’re acting it.” She squared her feet and locked eyes.

This was not an ideal situation. Exhaustion and stress were wearing them all down. Tolerance for Erin’s rude comments is wearing thin.

“Insult me again and you’ll be sorry.”

“I won’t be sorry, because I didn’t insult you.” Sam took a deep breath exhaling slowly.

“You did!”

“No Erin. I said your actions were stupid.”

“It’s the same dammed thing.” Erin clenched and shook her fist slightly.

Emotions are hard to show, the key is to take a moment to think about how you feel and what do you do when you are excited? Do you jump up and down clapping your hands melodramatically? Does everyone? Not likely. There are those that do, but usually its things such as grinning, smiling, whooping, punching the air or clenching fists under the chin and hunching your shoulders. Everyone reacts differently and it’s important that your characters do too. Sam stays calm and defensive. Erin is prone to aggression and rage. However when Sam gets upset she reacts by walking away or pursing her lips while Erin would insult or lash out. Someone else might strike out physically without provocation.

My advice about emotions.
Like actions, they need to be shown not told. Watch others, ask others how they react to emotions. If you’re stumped try a resource, there are some great books out there that have better ideas.

While tricky, showing emotion draws the reader in and creates empathy. People read to experience a story so give them one to dive into.

-Sheryl

More about taglines
Tag! You’re it.

My thoughts on Filter words
No “Filter Word” Parking Here

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved