3 Tips to Add Power to Your Writing
Show, don’t tell. It’s become the mantra for fiction writers. You’ve probably heard it said at conferences or seen it discussed on websites, but what exactly does it mean?
Think about a scene from your favorite movie. What are the characters doing? Are they excited? Worried? Determined? You know what they’re feeling because you can see them. These days, a book is no different. Readers want to see your characters act, not be told how they feel.
Let’s say Sally, your protagonist, is worried because of a phone call she received. You could write it like this:
- Sally worried about what the man told her.
Not very exciting, is it? Now take that sentence and pretend it’s in the script of a movie. The actress reads it and knows she has to do something to show the audience how worried she is. How does she do that? Maybe it’d go something like this:
- Sally massaged her forehead and choked back the waves of nausea.
In that sentence, we show the reader what Sally does and feels, as opposed to telling them. Doing so provides a deeper point of view by making the character more relatable. Sally becomes more realistic by doing the same thing the reader might do when troubled.
Take a look at this photo:
[tweetthis]3 tips to add power to your writing.[/tweetthis]
[tweetthis]Tips for writers: What can Audrey Hepburn teach us?[/tweetthis]
What emotions do you think these actresses are showing? How would you describe their facial expressions? Their body posture? Leave a comment below with your best description and let’s compare notes.
Showing how a character feels makes for far more interesting reading. So the next time you’re tempted to “tell” in your writing, put yourself in your character’s shoes instead.
Frustrated? Throw a pencil across the room. Angry? Clench your jaw until it hurts. Thinking? Tap your finger on your laptop keyboard. You get the idea. Bring your characters to life by showing their emotions.
- Adverbs that end in -ly are major culprits of telling and can often be replaced by making the sentence more descriptive.
- Search for the words feel and felt. Rework the sentence to describe the emotion and its impact on the character.
- Consider investing in resources that can jump-start your descriptions. I use The Emotion Thesaurus and recommend it often.