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Monday, November 14, 2011

Can You Feel It?


Showing character emotion. A difficult task.
This is a common "telling" pitfall. But showing is so hard! (she whined - no, she said and stomped her foot.)

Here is a quick made up example...

          Kay felt guilty for spilling Emily's secret. But it was for her own good.

This is an improvement...

          The painful look in Emily's eyes snagged Kay like a thorn, keeping her from escaping the guilt of spilling their secret. But it was for her own good!

You could probably do better, but you see my point. I'm steadily improving at recognizing my "tell vs. show" of emotions as I edit, thanks to crits and betas. What I have learned about portraying emotion is to avoid:
  • "felt" and relying on verbs
  • adverbs - the ever outcast!
  • the narrator perspective - totally telling
Suggestions to fix:
  • describe a visual of an action to show the emotion
  • think about what you would DO in the situation then determine what the character would do
  • using dialog is always helpful, but use plain old tags (just sayin!) if any =)

Back to our example...(why am I so good at bad examples?)

          "It was for your own good," Kay chided smugly, feeling justfied.


          "It was for your own good," Kay said with a hmpf and crossed her arms.

I hope that's helpful. And please add your own thoughts on the matter!

Now think of your WIP. Do you have a scene with strong emotions that's a good example? or needs some work? We would love to see it! Please submit around 200-300 words to unicornbellsubmissions@gmail.com . And if I don't hear from you, you will be stuck reading my stuff. Maybe I will pull out my MG fantasy, hmm. One last thing, I'd like to request examples of emotions other than love. Love has its own spectrum of problems to deal with that we will address in later posts.

But wait! See the cool banner above? We are helping S. R. Johannes launch her new book UNTRACEABLE. Huntress got to read it and we will be posting her review this Friday. It sounds like an awesome story! quick blurb:

Untraceable - Coming Nov 29th! A new young adult wilderness thriller with a missing father, a kickbutt heroine, and of course - two hot boys.

(emoticons source)


Charity Bradford said...

OMGosh, I so love the Untraceable cover! And Tara, great post!

Abby Fowers said...

Love the cover too.

And don't even get me started on "showing" NOT "telling." Agh. It is aggravating, but so important. I'm working on it. :)

Huntress said...

I read somewhere that books must have some 'tell' rather than 'show' or all books would have 1000 pages :)

Great Post!

Madeleine said...

Yes I have learned about this the hard way, though blogging challenges have helped me tighten my writing in a 'showing' style. It's all about using the 6 senses and metaphor and simile.

mshatch said...

Thanks to some great crit partners I am getting much better at showing rather than telling although I will echo what Huntress said: You gotta have some tell. The best books have the perfect mixture of both.

Excellent post and examples :)

can't wait to read the review of Untraceable.