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

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