Covered up with paint and lies.

When I write depth into characters can be complicated and simple at the same time. Complicated because they need a history, a set structure of behaviors, actions and reactions. Simple because they are human and can be unpredictable when necessary. When I start out building the foundation for a character like Sasha, I have to have her backstory set out and ready to work from. She struggles to get a head and seems to fall short on the luck end of the scale. Something from her past haunts her and holds her back. Now her boss handed her a project laced with false promise and subtle threats, the content goes against her morals but she needs the money. I tend to start someone like this already low, have life toss her a few more blows before she is able to shake them and rise above. Sasha is the kind of person that hides what’s beneath, not well, but she tries. Her shame is in her self-perceived weakness of character, a failure as a woman who should be strong in the face of adversity. 

Sasha hung up the desk phone hard on her friend Anne and sat back in her chair. Anne and Valery weren’t giving in, they were going to drag her out to the bar tomorrow no matter what they had to do. She reached over and closed the ominous file that her boss gave her hours ago. She packed it in her briefcase with her laptop and sighed heavily. The project had to be illegal, everything about it felt wrong. The email she just read from her lawyer said the Smithson’s lawyer won the argument and they didn’t have to pay her back for the leaky roof they lied about nor the huge crack in the foundation they hid. Of course not, why should Sasha catch a break today? It was a long shot but the shady owners had left a lot of nasty surprises that they covered up with paint and lies.

She swallowed hard as her turbulent mind made her stomach jump and taught nerves cry to go home, the falling down shamble that it was, and crawl into bed and stay there for the next week. Valery would be popping by in a minute to make sure she wasn’t going to bail and run on their dinner plans tonight. Sasha closed her eyes, took a deep breath and composed herself. She slipped into an uncomfortable façade and smiled as her door opened. Best to play along, then they would leave her alone so she could cry later.

People in the real world behave this way, smile, fake it and let nobody know. People react differently to situations and not always the way I would. I try to pay attention to others and to how they handle things. Sometimes it goes against my sense of logic and that is what I need to write in to a character. Something that frustrates or annoys people. Because that is real. I can’t have everyone doing and reacting to things the same way. They can’t all agree and they can’t all get along. They can fake it, they can even show their displeasure, they key is consistency. Sasha isn’t likely to yell at her friends for being friends, she will suck it up and crawl into her misery shell later. Sasha is coming up to the anniversary of the day that reminds her of the worst day of her life. Her friends won’t let her wallow, and things are not looking up for her. The meanie I am will write her downfall and it’s going to be a hard fall. Don’t worry someone will help her through it all, support her while she gets back up and dusts off the crap I throw at her.

Some, not all people put on airs of one sort or another. A false face presented to the world. Not everyone pretends to be happy, some people pretend to be jerks, or unhappy or even sick. I mean come on all you have to do is look at co-workers, how many are genuinely happy to see the boss emerge from their cave of wonders to  judge your efforts on looking productive?

My advice about facades in characters.
They make people interesting so I recommend adding them to make a character feel real to the reader. Take some time to watch people, real live people in action. Pay more attention to them and even yourself.

-Sheryl

Other posts

It’s a love hate sort of thing

Over used and oft abused.

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Facade

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What to do?

I love a good dilemma. The moment in a story when a character must choose between two impossible choices. It is in that when I really dig in. I have my own opinion formed because the writer has brought me to this point along with the character. What will they do? I must know.

This is what every author wants from a reader. Sitting on the edge of their seat, holding their breath as their eyes skim the words and tensing from anticipation. Because when this happens, magic happens. The reader is invested they have become part of the story and the story part of them. They may cheer because the character chose wisely or cry out “No!” because they went against the readers idea. Either way it works, it makes them read on, it solidifies the moment in their memory because it was charged up. Now they are going to go tell their friends. “You have to read this.” At least this is what happens when I read a book.

Sasha sat facing her boss. Mr. Clifton. A beady-eyed man who had never spoken more than twenty words to her in six years. A man who fired people on a whim all because he can. He was the owner and he liked to strike terror into his staff. He owned an advertising and design company and had no clue which end of a paintbrush to use. For Sasha it was an insult.

“Miss Parsons.” He picked up a small folder from his desktop. “I was told you caused quite a stir yesterday changing out the ad layout last minute.”

“I did sir. I felt it was.” She stopped at his swiftly raised hand.

“No need. That little stunt gained us their full account. Instead of one layout they want five on all media platforms.”

Sasha swallowed hard. That was unheard of. All that over her idea?

“Take this.” He held the folder out to her. “I want you to do a private project for me. One that you cannot share or talk to anyone about. No one.”

Her stomach jumped. The folder. The preverbal pink-slip. Every time someone worked on a hush hush project for Clifton, they disappeared. It was the big office rumor and scary story. The mystery that made them all walk on eggshells. This didn’t make sense. She was a dammed good artist. She worked hard and has made this company a lot of money.  She took it with her shaking hand and opened it. Six pages. All simple images, all but one were common items.

“They are numbered, they must all be used in order and the last is to be subliminal.”

She looked up suddenly. “But that’s restricted border line illigal we can’t do that.”

“Cant? That’s not for you to decide young lady. I need someone talented to pull this off. I think you are the one. So here are your choices. Do this project in secret and make sure it is good.” He leaned forward. “And I might consider you for Wilber Marks position. Corner office, name on the door and your own department to run. Refuse and well.” He shrugged. “Go on, go work your magic.” He dismissed her with a waive of his hand.

She got up and walked out numbly, folder in hand. Wilber was retiring and she desperately wanted his job. She wasn’t the only one. She looked at the pictures again. The message being conveyed was clearly something illegal and the method questionable. That it was to be secret made her conscience bang around in her head. “But Wilber’s office…” She walked back to her small windowless office and closed the door. “Six years is a lot to throw away.” Sasha frowned at the pictures. “Do something illegal, get a promotion and a fat raise or quit.” She sat back and chewed her lip. She couldn’t afford to quit her job, it took forever to get this one and nobody is hiring that she knew of. Competition is fierce.

She stared at the images. This was a decision she had to make on her own or she would lose the option to decide. She wouldn’t risk Valery’s input lest he fire her too.

“What do I do?” She rubbed her temples. “Sell my soul and move into the corner office or foreclose on my mortgage and move into my parents basement?”

What she decides isn’t what you think. It took me a bit to decide what to do(The writers dilemma) and it ends up being a huge turn in the plot. I sat there and thought about what would happen with each choice. Then I thought what would the reader expect a good honest person, but in a tight financial situation to do? I chose to do what is unexpected not what the reader expects. This is the point where her life is about to be completely turned on its head. The dilemma acts as a catalyst for everything that happens to her from this point on. FYI This isn’t from BiaAtlas. This story started with a blog post. It has since turned into a side project.

My advice about dilemmas.
Take advantage of an opportunity to make characters decide their fate. Decisions like these happen for real and are relatable. Who doesn’t love a good tense moment of “What to do?”

-Sheryl

Other posts:

Oops! What did I just say?

Bam! Pow! Kaboom!

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Dilemma

The joy of pretend world

When my son plays with his toys, like Lego, dinosaurs, hot-wheels or whatever he chooses. He is lost and submerged in his pretend world. Happy carefree and having fun.

It is fascinating to watch. Most children’s shows, movies and books are based off of the imaginary world they so easily dive into. They are written by adults who can successfully still access the mysterious world of child’s play. I envy this play this ability to create entire worlds in their heads and become part of them.

Wait, isn’t that what I do? Yes, yes it is. When I sit and write, my pretend world is a little more grown up, but it is still an imaginary place. It’s mine and its a crazy wild and wonderful world. So when I look at my son and he comes up with fantastical scenarios that only he can see, I smile realizing I do the same thing. Only I write mine down instead of acting it out. I play the story in my head I move the characters and change their environments at my whim.

Every aspect of my book is my doing. From the people, their clothes, what they eat and do. To how they act, behave, their history present and future. Their love lives or lack of, their tendency toward good or evil. The worlds in which they live interact and move through. Ever little single thing is created in the creative corner of my mind, the play-center of my adult life.

My pretend worlds bring me great joy and I am so happy to know that I’m still a kid at heart. I haven’t forgotten how to create pretend worlds they are just different. Now I can share my imagination with others and when I read a book I know I’m sharing in someone else’s pretend world playtime.

My advice about pretend world.
If you write fiction, you’re a big kid like it or not. Welcome to the club, love it, embrace it and don’t forget to play well with others. 😉

-Sheryl

Earlier posts

Silliness and seriousness

Eyes that carry worlds

That sounds complicated

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Pretend
Center
Imaginary

Hey! Its’ Interjection

When I’m writing conversation I try to make it flow and express emotion the situation clearly. Conversation is not meant to be filler, nor should it ever be. It must be part of the story, what keeps it moving forward while developing characters and their relationships.

I have learned that a simple statement can be read out of context very easily(I’ve experienced this). The reader isn’t necessarily on the same page as I am, and cant possibly be on the same page if I don’t make my writing and intent clear. This leaves the reader to jump to voicing conclusions and set the tone themselves. This can be influenced by their own mood. You hope that they get it right in their minds voice, that it sounds appropriate. Chances are, if you’re hoping and they’re guessing, it will be wrong. This can lead to a frustrated reader when they find out you meant something different than what they interoperated. Bad writer, now go have a time out!

One word can make all the difference. Without action tags these can still express the feeling or emotion. When I’m trying to dress up a lame statement for a night out on the conversation, I’ll try a few approaches to find the winning outfit.
One simple interjection at the beginning dramatically change the statement.
An interjection in grammar is:

1.    Any member of a class of words expressing emotion, distinguished in most languages by their use in grammatical isolation, as Hey! Oh! Ouch! Ugh!

2.    Any other word or expression so used, as Good grief! Indeed! *source: dictionary.com

I’ll start with this.
“I have so much to learn.”
Yawn… Let’s interject some style.

“Ugh! I have so much to learn.”

“Yay! I have so much to learn.”

“Oh no! I have so much to learn.”

“Damn! I have so much to learn.”

That cleared it up a bit. If I read any one of those I would give it the right tone or expression.

Now changing the tone can be as easy as changing the action tag. Like swapping flats for heels. Or a suit for a tuxedo.

Dressed to under-impress:
“Come on, it’s time to go.” Sasha opened the door.
Sweatpants and t-shirt effort. Lame. How did she open the door? What was she doing? What tone did she have in her voice? How can I expect a reader to know what’s in my head? Back to the dressing room we go. Let’s try it with an action tag then with the tag and the added word.

Frustration or impatience
“Come on, it’s time to go.” Sasha tilted her head back rolling her eyes to the ceiling as she opened the door.
“Ugh! Come on, it’s time to go.” Sasha tilted her head back rolling her eyes to the ceiling as she opened the door.

Excitement
“Come on, it’s time to go.” Sasha grinned as she opened the door.
“Yay! Come on, it’s time to go.” Sasha grinned as she opened the door.

Urgency
Sasha glanced at her watch. “Come on, it’s time to go.” She opened the door quickly.
Sasha glanced at her watch. “Oh no! Come on, it’s time to go.” She opened the door quickly.

Annoyance
“Come on, it’s time to go.” Sasha furrowed her brow as she opened the door.
“Damn! Come on, it’s time to go.” Sasha furrowed her brow as she opened the door.

Anger
“Come on, it’s time to go.” Sasha stomped her foot as she opened the door.
“Argh! Come on, it’s time to go.” Sasha stomped her foot as she opened the door.

I try to make each sentence or statement count. I may not succeed but if I address most of them I happy.

My advice about Interjections
I generally use them sparingly because they often come with the mighty over used exclamation point. If the situation is intense or needs a strong reaction, try them. Don’t forget  to try an action tag.

-Sheryl

Related posts worth checking out:
Unidentified Fervent Outburst!

Show and tell

Tag! You’re it.

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Jump

It’s a love hate sort of thing

I spend a lot of time talking about feelings. How to show them instead of just tell them. That’s because the books I’ve loved the most suck me in and make me feel. However, there are times when showing an emotion can get lost if the context is missing. If I forget to set up or keep up the scenario it can be misread or taken, well a whole other way. Ideally, this would be part of a bigger picture, but what if it’s not?

 Balor put his hand on Sasha’s shoulder as she backed up into the counter.
“You need to leave.” She squeezed her eyes shut. She barely knew him, this can’t be .
His fingers brushed the side of her neck and she whimpered.  “I’ll teach you a thing or two.” Balor’s deep voice made her lips tremble. “Teasing me at the bar.”
“I didn’t mean to.” Sasha had barely looked at this man.
She spent most of the night trying to ditch Valery and Anne. She gasped for air as Balor gripped her Stylish“>stylish pink shirt in his left hand and brought his other hand up to her clammy neck. She moved her trembling fingers behind her reaching for the counter.

The door flew open and Balor let her go.
“What’s going on here!” Cal advanced on Balor fists clenched, he swung hard and fast at Balor, the sickening smack of fist to jaw made her flinch as Balor hit the floor.
“Did you follow me too?” Sasha’s legs wobbled.
“Dammed right I did. I saw this scum follow you out of the bar.” 

That’s not much to go on, so what did you take from it? What emotion was being shown through Sasha? I put in all the correct emotional responses in, I didn’t cheat. Yet it wasn’t clearly showing what I wanted. Still even in that scrap, the reader should know what’s going on.

What was really happening.

Balor put his hand on Sasha’s shoulder as she backed up into the counter.
Screaming was pointless nobody would hear.
“You need to leave.” She squeezed her eyes shut, she barely knew him.

His fingers brushed the side of her neck and she whimpered.  “I’ll teach you a thing or two.” Balor’s deep voice making her lips tremble. “Teasing me at the bar.”
“I didn’t mean to.” She had barely looked at this man, she spent most of the night trying to ditch Valery.
Cal was the one that made her laugh; he made her feel alive again.
She gasped for air as Balor gripped her stylish pink shirt in his left hand and  brought his other hand up to her clammy neck. She moved her trembling fingers behind her reaching for the counter as he raised his fist to strike her. If she could reach the knives, she might survive this.

The door flew open and Balor let her go.
“What’s going on here!” Cal advanced on Balor fists clenched, he swung fast and hard at Balor, the sickening smack of fist to jaw made her flinch as Balor hit the floor.
“Did you follow me too?” Sasha’s legs wobbled.
“Dammed right I did. I saw this scum follow you out of the bar.” Cal pulled out a badge and a pair of handcuffs. “Detective Cal Thorne.”

Taken out of context or not shown properly you might think that the first attempt was a romantic interlude and a jealous lover. However, her emotional responses belonged to Terror. The reason I brought this up was that I was reading a book this summer and set it down. I didn’t get back to it for a while and when I picked it up, what I read didn’t make sense. It was a large block of a chapter missing specific content. Sure, it was there but not right away. I had to go back a couple of pages to get the right feel and read it again.

In the grand picture the creepiness of Balor following her is clear as is his initial and violent contact when she gets home. But what if you had set the book down and couldn’t get back to it for a while and tried to pick up at that point?

My advice about showing feeling without context.
Put it in even if it’s subtle and just a little. For example, love and hate can be similar in select action tags.  You don’t want someone’s intense fevered stare of hate to be read as an intense fevered stare of love just before a fist fight, that might be awkward.

-Sheryl

Related posts:

Unidentified Fervent Outburst!

That is disgusting

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Stylish
Survive

Hold your tongue!

I’ve talked about blabbermouths and chatty people in Shut your cakehole. I’ve discussed keeping dialogue out of scenes for logical reasons in Shhh don’t say a word. There are times when I feel dialog needs to be left out to make a point or establish a characters frame of mind.

When it comes to people, there are those that are quieter than others are. They speak less frequently and often only contribute when there is something important or witty to say. These are the characters that impart wisdom and random insights that can stun others, change the direction of the story or even provide a key observation to move the plot forward. There are also those that for extenuating circumstances clam up and have little or nothing to say.

For these people I will write them in a conversation by an appropriate action. Especially if the conversation is contrary to their personality. If the conversation is annoying to them I might have them roll their eyes, then have a chatty chipper person call them out only to respond with a mere shrug.

“I can’t believe that happened!” Valery raised her hand to cover a giggle.
Anne leaned closer to Sasha and Valery. “I know right?”
“Of all people, he flirts with Sash.” Valery grinned at her frowning friend. “You little minx you.”
“For someone dressed for Sunday school you sure are getting a lot of attention tonight.” Anne glanced at the handsome man named Balor the first of two to flirt with Sasha and downed a tequila shot. She and held one out for Sasha who waived it away.
Valery giggled again then leaned into Sasha. “That Cal guy was totally trying to get your attention, and the other one, a smidge weird, but still into you.”
Sasha rolled her eyes and glanced over at Cal. He smiled, she looked back at the shooter Anne held in front of her face and gently pushed it away.
Valery set her drink down hard on the table. “Oh common Sash, lighten up you need to move on already.”
Sasha pursed her lips, narrowed her eyes and stalked off to the restroom.
“Should we go after her?” Anne downed Sasha’s tequila shot.
“Nah.” Valery waved her hand in Sasha’s direction. “She needs a dose of reality.” “Or a good lay.” Anne burst out laughing.

 Not talking doesn’t mean Sasha is always this way, she is in an uncomfortable situation and her friends are being pushy and loud. It is a good way to show her annoyance and impatience, set the tone for her pending character development, and maybe hint at a backstory.

My advice about silence in dialogue.
It can be a very good way to bring depth to a character, or prepare them for their journey of self-discovery or change. Alternatively, it can be a good personality trait. Either way, don’t forget that not everyone has to participate in the conversation.

-Sheryl

Related Posts:

Shut your cake hole

Shhh… Don’t say a word.

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Silence

Look at the source

Confidence is a fragile thing. Especially when you take huge chance on yourself and put your work out there to be judged. My husband says something that I’ve caught myself saying/thinking often when receiving a complement or criticism. “Look at the source.”

This is a very good measuring stick to apply value to what is being said.  I often ask for honest opinions on something and I sincerely hope to get them. Good or bad I value it all. Now haters need not apply, they can stick their self loathing teardown tactics where the sun doesn’t shine. When I say bad, I mean legit criticism or constructive criticism.

For example.

“Wow I loved the character development, except for Joe, he fell flat and faded into the background unlike Sasha who steps up to the challenge.”

First I look at the source, who is telling me this? Do I trust them? Is the comment inline with them as a person? Are they being petty or honest?  Then I’ll look at the issue and determine if I did or did not let Joe fizzle out. This is useful either I’m neglecting Joe or my source is out to lunch. Chances are they saw or noticed something I’m too close to see myself.

Someone else’s opinion or advice is not gospel, it’s a suggestion I use to broaden my perspective.

Sometimes if I get a conflicting comment that stands out from the rest I pause, assess and move on respectively. I have been getting some fantastic reviews, and some interesting criticisms on my book. I will be honest I was expecting the professional critic to tear my work apart, when he didn’t I wondered if he was buttering me up. Then I put it in perspective. I compared this source with all the others and except for a couple they all lined up. Clean writing, good flow, functioning dialog, suspenseful and engaging. That was a boost and a half to my confidence. I wrote this book having never written anything more than a short story in high school (many moons ago) and technical reports in college (still a few moons ago). So to hear that all my hard work is good, was wonderful.

My advice about put-downs professional or otherwise.
Aside from critiques this can apply to anyone anytime for anything. When someone criticises you or your work unjustly, look at the source. Are they having a bad day? Are they just a down-to-the-bones jerk? Jealous? A quick way to shut them down is to smile politely and ask them, “What makes you say so exactly?” or “That’s an interesting observation, can you explain why you think so?” Having to justify unjust criticism is hard to do.

-Sheryl

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Fragile

Where did it go?

I have found myself stumped more than once while on my writing journey. A stumper of a moment that stands out the most is the loss of a prominent object. Where did it go?

In chapter two, I introduce a characters vice, an object she carries with her always. Let’s say it’s a pocket knife, her security blanket and foreshadow for other conversations. All of a sudden, I realized two chapters later that the knife disappeared and was completely forgotten. Oops.

I need to write it back in, but now the story has progressed without it and I prefer that it’s gone. It was awkward and held her back.  What to do, what to do? Write it out? Change the story? I thought about it and realized it needs to stay, but clearly not for long. Then it struck me, kill the knife off like a beloved, but useless character. This could be fun.

I went back with a sly grin on my face, made a point to have another character remove it from her presence subtly. Later he presents it to her in a humorous way, both embarrassing her and making her realize just how useless it is and that she needed to let it go. By doing this I killed off the object that started off with meaning, but it’s purpose petered out. An added bonus is that it was a great way to kick-start her character development. Her journey to be less dependent on others and things now out of the gates, her race has just begun. Thanks to the ‘security blanket’ knife being let go, it also symbolized her leaving her old self behind as she leaves it behind as well.

Opportunity can knock in the most unexpected ways. A forgotten object remembered, can shift the story or characters development in a tangible way. She didn’t ever need the knife, just some confidence and a dose of reality. That I was able to make it more important to her growth as a person, while removing it from the story, was an amazing and unexpected outcome.

My advice about being stumped.
Look at the problem from another point of view, perhaps your plan or direction isn’t the only possible outcome.

-Sheryl

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Stump

Expect the unexpected… or not.

Sometimes a character or a side-stories direction can peter out. They will lose direction, interest or momentum. I like to make a side story/character impactful in some way. I generally have an idea where it will go and how it fits in and affects the main story.

What happens when it’s not meeting the mark? It’s time to recharge the story or character.

What do I do? First, I don’t let myself get discouraged. Then I take a break to come back with a fresh perspective and take a good look at the problem. Usually for me the issue is lack of action. Second, I think about what I want to accomplish and can I spice it up. This can take seconds to days or even weeks to come up with a new direction, a game changer. They can be main or subplot twists. They don’t have to be dramatic or huge, subtle works too. That can be tedious to wait for an idea from the deep recesses of my brain. I make two lists to spark inspiration. One is random things that can happen and one of random things that make no sense to the story. They can look like this.

Possible

  • Serious injury
  • car accident
  • wins money or item
  • break in
  • theft
  • finds a big clue or evidence
  • betrayal
  • falls for the wrong person
  • new adversary
  • loss of funding
  • inadvertently kills someone (maybe self-defence)
  • breaks the law
  • saves a life
  • loss of power
  • shift in management
  • new team member or co-worker
  • failed plan

Impossible

  • company suddenly shuts down
  • death of main character
  • death of support character
  • become outlaws
  • bad guys become in charge
  • asked/told/commanded to do something unethical (Great for conflict creation)
  • plans or commits murder
  • spills information or secrets to the wrong guys
  • Takes up arms against allies

I make these lists primarily to put ideas in my head. Often they will lead my mind down a path to something that makes me gasp, sit up and feel excitement. Determining what’s possible and impossible will depend on the base morals of the story and characters within. For this, I’m not worried about foreshadowing, unless it’s really big and needs a little set up. I like surprise, the random things that the reader doesn’t see coming. However I use this in moderation, if it’s a constant storm of ‘what the hell just happened!’ it can distract from the story and turn the reader off. Plot twists are great. Plot turns are fantastic, blowing it to kingdom come… probably not a great way to endear readers to you. I say this because I’ve read books where nothing was foreshadowed, big things happened all the time for no apparent reason and it was frustrating beyond reason to read.

It’s kind of fun to look at where you want it to go, and make a list of the exact opposite and think about what would happen if…

My advice about recharging a lifeless character or plot.
There are unlimited options to stir the pot and rejuvenate a character or story, my actual lists are much longer and really random.  Make some lists and keep an open mind. It’s okay to play devil’s advocate if it saves the story from becoming a Yawn-farm.

-Sheryl

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Recharge

 

Getting a little touchy feely

Feel, feeling and felt. Three destructive little filter words. These words shift perspective from the story and into the character. It’s awkward to read and leaves a reader feeling disjointed even if they aren’t aware. I don’t write in first person perspective so these words in particular can cripple a sentence fast.

What to do about them. I use them a lot when I write, it’s how I get out what needs to be said, what I need to express. It’s lazy and I’m okay with that because it won’t stay that way. I searched my manuscript and found the following incidences:

Felt 67
Feel 112
Feeling/feelings 23

Not all of them are filter word incidences. Within conversation or dialogue, they are fine or as a verb unrelated to emotions. These three are often (At least in my case) plunked into wordy sentences or super lazy ones.

For example.

Joe put the Sandwich“>sandwich together hastily. He felt the hunger pangs in his stomach. It had been ten hours since he remembered to eat last. He left the house with the printout to meet Sasha. He was excited to show her the new proof and felt certain she would believe him now. (52)

There’s a whole lot of telling going on. Let me try that again.

Finally, Joe found some undeniable proof after searching eight hours straight without even a snack. His stomach growled as he picked up the printout, his hastily made ham sandwich and ran out the door to meet Sasha. (37)

 That was better, less wordy too. Here’s a mistake I make all the time.

Joe dragged his feet along the path, feeling the course gravel scuff the soles of his shoes. (17)

There is no reason to feel through his shoes and yet I am guilty of having characters ‘feeling’ unnecessary things.

Joe dragged his feet, scuffing his shoes along the coarse gravel path. (12)

Joe is an emotional person so writing his feelings can be tricky.

Joe looked at Sasha then back to the path. He felt frustrated with her constant lack of interest in him lately. She just wouldn’t listen to reason, he was right this time and he knew it. He even had the proof in his hand to show her. He felt angry when she sighed dismissively and now he was ready to snap. (61)

In that one, I made a few oopsies. Filter words, wrong perspective, and wordiness. Instead of showing, I told his emotions.

Joe glanced at Sasha as he clenched his jaw. She was ignoring the hard evidence that he worked hard to find. She rolled her eyes when he tried to show her again. When she sighed dismissively, he clenched his fists, crumpling the precious printout. (44)

Sometimes it’s not about word count and more about beefing up empty sentences.

Feeling tired, Sasha crawled into the bath. The hot water felt divine. (12)

It’s like whiplash. In her mind, out and then back in. To fix this I would add words, it’s not always about keeping word count down. That and it was a very boring sentence. The temptation to overdo it here is strong. Before I learned to make every word count, (Haha at least I try to) and to stop double describing things, it might have looked like this.

Stifling a yawn of exhaustion, Sasha eased herself into the hot jasmine scented bath. The heat from the hot water and scent of flowers soothing her tired body. (28)

Gee, do you think the water is hot? Baths usually are duh, I’m not sure, and it’s not super clear, but she might possibly be tired. *Rolling my own eyes.

Yawning, Sasha eased into the jasmine scented bath. The heat from the water soothing her tired muscles. (17)

There much better. Only five words added from the original and it’s not hurting my brain to read it.

My advice about feelings.
Everyone has them, good or bad just make sure to keep them outside the characters body or mind. Unless you are writing in first person, show the feeling don’t tell it. he clenched his jaw (instead of) he felt frustrated.

-Sheryl

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