Roller-coaster Conversations

There is nothing worse than a drab, monosyllabic conversation. A parley with no point and no book gripping content. It’s like conversation for the sake of conversation. Page filler that is not going to get the pages turned quickly if at all.

I’ve mentioned before that conversations should have meaning to the characters and impact the story in some way to be effective. I’ve mentioned that showing emotion is important and so is including emotion in conversation.

The more personal the conversation the more emotionally charged it should be. I work hard to make that happen. On that note I like to throw the characters and the reader for a little emotional roller-coaster ride. No serious conversation or confrontation is limited to one or two emotions, they are fire, ice, steam and earthquakes from beginning to end. I try to have a point to the conversation, a reason for it’s existence.

This example of a roller-coaster conversation is a rough draft and not fully edited.

Amber crammed her hands into her jacket pockets and scrunched her shoulders against the cold breeze. Normally it wouldn’t affect her, but lately everything seemed to be different and not in a good way.
“That’s a mighty big frown. You didn’t like the show?”
Amber turned her head toward Dale. He was trying too hard. “It was okay. I just don’t think they deserved that huge standing ovation.” 
His brow nit and he sneered. “So why’d you join in then?”
She shrugged her taught shoulders. “Dunno, didn’t want to look like a jerk I guess.”
They walked in silence, each lost in thought and the tension thick between them. By the time they reached her apartment, Amber was shivering.
“You coming up?” She unlocked the door.

Dale nodded and followed. They agreed to talk after the show. It would probably be a waste of time like all their other attempts. They ended up hanging out neither wanting to actually bring it up first. The second Amber had her coat off she went to find a sweater then to the kitchen to make a tea.
“Want one?” She held up a box of herbal mint tea.
“No thanks.” He looked around at the overly clean interior, Amber may be a lot of things, but messy isn’t one of them. “Where’s Bea?”
Amber filled her mug from the hot spout from the water cooler. “At her girlfriends. I think she’s moving out bit by bit. She just hasn’t said it outright yet.”
“Why?”
Tilting her head to the side she dunked the teabag to a steady rhythm. “Why do you think?”
Dale stared at the bobbing teabag. “Right.”  He looked at her face. “So will you get a new roommate?”
“Yes.” She sipped the steaming tea. “In about seven months or so.” She laughed at his frown. “I can afford this place on my own no problem. I’ve been squirreling her rent away. Even on mat leave I can afford it fine.”
He followed her to the living area and sat on the couch bedside her as she pulled a blanket over herself and held the warm mug between two hands. “I’m screwed in the winter if I’m going to be this sensitive to cold.”
“My mom said you’ll be a furnace once you show.” 
She glared at him her cheeks flushing. “You told your mom?”
“I had to talk to someone Amber.” He rubbed his face with his hands. “You’re not the only one freaked out you know.”
Amber looked into her mug, a few flakes of mint leaf escaped the bag and danced at the bottom. “Great. Did  you tell her you knocked up the office slut?”
“I told her I got my girlfriend pregnant.” He held up his hand when her head snapped up and she opened her mouth. “But that we’re not serious and probably wont stay together. I thought it would be better for her to like you.”
“Thanks Dale.” She tried to smile and failed. “I think we can manage as friends.” She looked at him again when he snorted. “What?”
“Friendzoned. I don’t want to be just your friend Amber.”
“I know and I said I’d try Dale what more can I do?” She set her tea down on the coffee table.
“Try? Do? You’re not trying and you’re not doing anything Amber.” Dale shook his head and shifted sideways on the couch to face her. “I hate this, this.” He slammed his fist on the couch and she flinched. “Ugh. Do you think I like being the fool? The idiot that fell in love with a girl who only has eyes for the actual office slut?”
Her mouth fell open. Scott was perfect and she almost said so then closed her mouth. He wasn’t perfect by a long shot. 
“God Amber you said you wanted to see if we can be a couple but you’re not emotionally available. You’re in love with a shithead who doesn’t deserve the time of day from you.”

She replayed his words in her head while picking at a loose string on the blanket. Her infatuation with Scott was superficial. She looked up at Dale, his eyes dancing, his lips pursed and the muscles of his jaw working overtime. 
“Dale. I’m attracted to Scott. Less so lately, but I don’t love him as more than a friend or buddy or guy to have a crush on.” She blinked back unwelcome tears. “I don’t think I even have a crush on him anymore.”
“Then why not give me a real chance?”
Her eyes spilled over and she wiped her face. “I’m afraid of you Dale.” She wiped her face again. “Afraid you’ll make me love you then leave when it gets tough. Dammit I never cry, stupid hormones.”

Dale blinked at her. She did believe it, not because he’s given her any reason to, but because someone else had. Someone important. She had walls, big tall barriers that made her act and pretend to be easy going and happy-go-lucky regarding men and casual-sex relationships. It was all a facade. He shifted closer and pulled her into a hug until she stopped crying. “Want to know a secret Amber?”
She shifted back and nodded as he hooked a finger under her chin to force her to look up at him.
“I did a little happy dance inside when you told me about the baby and that you were keeping it.”
She furrowed her brow. “Why?”
“Because it meant one way or another you’d be in my life forever.” Dale leaned in and gently pressed his lips to hers, moving them lightly waiting for permission to continue. She moved her lips and set her hand on his bicep gently.  Permission given. He pressed harder and she opened her mouth to his. A low noise of approval escaped his throat when her tongue flicked across his bottom lip and met with his. 

In my opinion the better the ride, the better chance I have of keeping the reader at my theme park of a book. I wanted to show Dale’s commitment, Amber’s strife to change and that her transition is underway. I also wanted to give a bit more backstory to Amber and why she is who and how she is.

My advice about roller-coaster conversations.
Roller-coaster conversations are as enjoyable to write as they are to read. Emotional and pretentious characters can have the best unpredictable conversations. Let them be erratic and unstable, it’s really fun.

-Sheryl

Some other conversational posts I wrote

Hey! Its’ Interjection

Shhh… Don’t say a word.

Hold your tongue!

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

 Interior

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What did you mean?

I have read stories and books that miss one very important thing. Setting up an emotionally charged statement before it happens.  When I’m reading dialogue it can be frustrating to get to the end of a sentence only to discover my inner-voice was way off on the tone that the character was meant to be speaking in. I call this emotional tone delay. I read said dialogue, find out the tone I imagined was wrong then have to either read it or mentally replay it in the correct tone.  If it happens too often I like the book less and less and less.

How it sounds in my head as the writer isn’t necessarily the way it sounds in the readers. This is why it is so important to create a welcoming world for the reader to jump into. Show them tone and emotion instead of bludgeoning them with a tag.

“Really?” Amber said with excitement.

By putting the tag at the end, what ‘voice’ I read that in was voided. As a reader that can be annoying and then all voices sound out deadpan and the emotion is applied after the fact. It makes for some terrible visualization and fantasy.

Amber grinned and bounced on the balls of her feet. “Really?” 

Sarcasm is often lost in print if I want to convey a tone of voice shows the tone by posturing the character. My rule I’ve adopted from others: Don’t get lazy and tell the tone.

“Really?” Dale said sarcastically.  

Set it up properly so the reader knows it’s sarcasm or tags it with an appropriate action.

Dale inhaled slowly. “Really?” He rolled his eyes.

Creating the tone before the character speaks is important. This can be as long as a paragraph or as short as a few words. Setting the reader up for a smooth transition to the words lets them enjoy the story without having to “re-hear” it in their head before moving on.  So what happens if the set up is the wrong emotion conveying action?

Scott tilted his head to the side. “Really?” 

That could be humor, anger, annoyance, sarcasm or maybe tease. Normally in a story, there would be leading up to a statement like that. But I’ll pretend there isn’t and Scott’s statement is the start of the conversation or scenario. While tilting the head can convey emotion it is often a quirk or habit that without context could mean anything.

Scott crossed his arms, tilted his head to the side with his brow furrowed. “Really?”

Sure it get’s wordy, however, if I really want to show the reader how Scott feels then I will make it work. I might even take the head tilting out unless I have that as Scott’s quirk. I wouldn’t want everyone going around gesturing the same way.

Scott tilted his head to the side as a sly grin spread across his face. “Really?”

Scott’s head tilted to the side as he stifled a snicker. “Really?”

Scott’s fist slammed on the table then he tilted his head. “Really?”

If the tone isn’t foreshadowed by action before the statement, the reader will likely project their own emotion into it. That may or may not work out and may or may not put them off the story which in turn will mean devastation for the review and reader’s opinion of the story and author.  I can write words and have my own idea how they are supposed to sound, but if I don’t let the reader in on it, then I’ve let them down.

My advice about acting out emotion.
I do this to keep the reader engaged, I highly recommend it. Don’t let the reader decide what ‘vocal’ tone the characters are using, show them so the meaning behind the word isn’t lost. After all, you don’t want a character to move when you mean swoon. 

-Sheryl

A post or two from a while back.

Squirrelly concentration at best

Time to take out the trash

My Posts From The Start

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Mope
Devastation

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

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

Well, excuse me!

I really enjoy the little things in writing. The sometimes humorous or clever things that make a story or character believable and fun to read. I try my best to include the little nuances that make a human being human even if they only exist in my mind and on paper. These little tidbits are not for everyone or every character otherwise they wouldn’t be minor traits.

Our emotions define us has people and embarrassment is one of them. Our bodies betray us in ways that can be funny and or embarrassing. I talked about flatulence so how about the other gas expelled from our bodies?

Yup, burps and belches. Stifled or free to fly they can be a point of contention, compliment, embarrassment, humor, insult and offense. What is the difference between a burp and a belch? Volume mostly. A burp is a natural expulsion of stomach gas, while a belch is generally forced out to be louder and longer. Both can be voluntary and both can be created by swallowing air and or carbonated beverages.

Reasons People Burp
Consumed air or carbonation with drinking or eating
Indigestion
About to vomit
Making room for more food (Still from swallowing air)
To pay a chef a compliment
To be manly *eye roll
To be rude
To be silly
To show off or compete (Yes this happens)

Burps can be stifled or belted out. They can sound very different from one to the next. I’m not sure if I would use this much or at all perhaps to show someone’s lack of manners or to bring about embarrassment.

Dale wolfed down his second vendor-dog and chugged his coke as he and Amber swiftly walked back to work from lunch. Back at his desk, Dale hung up his jacket and turned as Rachel approached him apprehensively.
“I have the new printouts for the Toothpaste demo for you Dale.” She held a folder of pictures.
“Thanks snitch.” He snatched them from her hand belching loudly wafting his hand before his face. “Woo! I should have passed on the onions and banana peppers.” Dale laughed as Rachel gagged from his aromatic expulsion and hurried away.
Amber popped her head over the divide between their cubicles. “OMG Dale that was hilarious.”

Anne sat at the café table with Valery; her hand flew to her mouth as she burped wide-eyed. “Oh-my-gosh! Excuse me.”
“It’s all good, you tried to cover it.” Valery waved her hand in dismissal and told Ann about her post-taco encounter with Jackson the night before eliciting giggles and laughter.

Bodily functions are good for highlighting a characters level of manners or maturity. They can ease a tense moment or cause one.

My advice about burps.
While not necessary in a story, they can lighten a scenario or darken one. Variety is the spice of life and if a character needs a little something to set them apart a belch might do the trick.

-Sheryl

Other posts of interest

Oops! What did I just say?

Show and tell

Bam! Pow! Kaboom!

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Aromatic
Nuance

Eating emotions

Eating. We all do it, and so do the imaginary people I bring to life in my stories. Food is important in the real world, it’s familiar and can bring people together or tear a person apart. For some, it’s just sustenance and not important. For others, it can be all consuming, the life-force to which their very souls depend. It can be joy, pleasure, happiness, torture, guilt, shame, control, and more. Food can signify the promise of fulfillment, both physical and emotional.

Nobody wants to read a full on description of every component of a meal, but a familiar description of sight smell and taste. (Use caution if not writing in first person narrative about describing smell and taste, it will need to be filter word free and shown not told.) Most people know what things smell and taste like, a small reminder or a luscious one can evoke emotion in the reader that holds them tight to the story and endears them to the characters I want them to love as much as I do.

Writing food and food interaction is a fantastic tool in my opinion to highlight a person’s likes, dislikes, flaws, quirks, and habits, good or bad. The opportunity is there to create witty dialog or bring characters at odd with one another to a common ground.  It can be a spectacular method of conveying emotion or even emotional state.

Comfort food. What not to do.

Anne wiped her tears and pulled her knees to her chest as the apartment door opened behind her.
“Hey, you.” Garry kissed the top of her head and set the large deep-dish pizza down on the solid oak coffee table in front of the couch that Anne sat on while crying. “After what happened I thought you could use some comfort food.”
She nodded and wiped her face again as he sat and pulled her into his arms. “It was humiliating that Jane got the promotion. I know how she got it. Thieving bitch.”
He rubbed her back. “Well.” He said sitting up and he reached down and opened the box. The thick bubbly crust perfectly cooked to perfection. The spicy garlic tomato based sauce well hidden below layers of melted stringy mozzarella cheese.  The hot and spicy greasy pepperoni covered the pie generously and the crunchy crumbled bacon stuck in the cheese smelled salty and savory.  
“Mmm.” She reached for a slice. “You’re the best-est.”
“I am.” He chuckled. “And eventually Jane’s true quality of work will become apparent because you’re going to stop doing it all for her. Then when they look, they’ll see who the talent in that office is.”
Anne covered her half-full mouth behind her hand. “Yeah. Screw her.” She smiled. (216)

Seriously, it’s pizza in a fiction, not a recipe book or flowery restaurant review.

Anne wiped her tears and pulled her knees to her chest as the apartment door opened behind her.
“Hey, you.” Garry kissed the top of her head and set a steaming pizza box on the low coffee table in front of her. “After what happened I thought you could use some comfort food.”
She nodded and wiped her face again as he sat and pulled her into his arms. “It was humiliating that Jane got the promotion. I know how she got it. Thieving bitch.”
He rubbed her back. “Well.” He said sitting up and opening the box freeing the smell of spicy sauce, cheese, bacon and pepperoni upon them.
“Mmm.” She reached for a slice. “You’re the best-est.”
“I am.” He chuckled. “And eventually Jane’s true quality of work will become apparent because you’re going to stop doing it all for her. Then when they look, they’ll see who the talent in that office is.”
Anne covered her half-full mouth behind her hand. “Yeah. Screw her.” She smiled. (169)

In some cases I want super vague, to demonstrate the characters lack of interest in the details.

Mark looked at the selection of chocolate bars and yelled ‘no!’ in his head. The reflection of himself in the shop window showed him the gut that hung over his slacks, his thick neck, and double chin.
His stomach growled as he looked back, blindly grabbed and placed two bars on the counter along with the chips. Then two more as the clerk rung up his selections.
Leaving the store his frown deepened as he unwrapped two bars and tossed the wrappers in the trash before climbing into his truck.
He barely tasted them as he finished the second before he even turned over the engine. “Tomorrow.” He looked at his reflection in the rear-view mirror. With tears pricking his eyes, he fumbled with another wrapper. “Tomorrow I’ll start the diet.” He sniffled with his mouth full. “Tomorrow.”

Everyone knows what a chocolate bar (Or candy-bar) is brand and type wasn’t necessary here. Sometimes a bit more detail is necessary to set the tone… This is where the idea discussed in The FAB pencil comes in handy.

The bright red strawberry gave off its ripe fragrant aroma as Valery brought it to her lips. Parting them slightly she bit into the sweet juicy berry as Grant watched. His mouth watered not for the food, but for the sensual look in her eyes. Both for the fruit and for him. Unless he was imagining her attraction. He closed his eyes a moment to open them as her strawberry flavored lips touched his.

My advice about food.
People eat, so should our imaginary friends. I do recommend keeping the descriptions short and sweet, not too salty. I can’t make any promises, but if you trim the fat when necessary and garnish when it’s important you will grab your reader’s attention.

-Sheryl

Related posts

It’s a love hate sort of thing

That is disgusting

Silliness and seriousness

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Promises
Spicy

Over used and oft abused.

Ah, the word shiver. Over used and oft abused. This is on my personal list of filter words. One that is injected into a sentence to replace showing an emotion. I find it in plethora among the words of a romance, horror or mystery. Or just dumped in to lazy writing, like I’m guilty of. 😉

At first I used this word freely, it’s a great way to express an obvious feeling right? Well yes and no. People shiver for different reasons, it’s those reasons that suggest this blanket word can be stretched out or removed altogether.

Example 1.

Billy’s fingers gently brushed the back of her arm sending pleasant shivers across her body. (15)

Not a bad sentence really. A few unnecessary words. If I’m also worried about (word count) I would remove gently and pleasant, they are implied anyway. Three words doesn’t seem like much, but it adds up quickly.

Her skin tingled as Billy’s fingers brushed the back of her arm. (12)

Example 2.

Elouise shivered suddenly for no reason whatsoever. “Someone must have walked across my grave.” She muttered to herself. (18)

Meh, it could use a little trimming and rewording.

Elouise frowned and rubbed her arms. “Someone must have walked across my grave.” (13)

Example 3. (I still write like this.)

Tod had never felt so bone achingly cold in his life. He was shivering so hard his teeth chattered loudly. (20)

Now I know enough to rewrite it to this. FYI the word felt is a super filter word.

Tod wrapped his arms around his aching body, unable to stop his chattering teeth. (14)

Do I never use the word shiver? No, it’s a fun word that evokes a personal response. I do use it sparingly or try to anyway. Sometimes a plain ole shiver is just what the story needs, especially if there is no established reason for it.

My advice about overuse.
Overuse can happen with any word, shiver is just an example. Make a list of ‘important’ words you see too often in your writing and then see how often you actually use them. Then see if you can switch it up or swap it out, but don’t jeopardize the story or the flow if you can’t think of a way to change it.

-Sheryl

 

Other related Posts.

No “Filter Word” Parking Here

Show and tell

Tag! You’re it.

 

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Shiver

Obvious

Jeopardize

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

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