Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Show not Tell!


You know when you go to a writing workshop and the instructor is all: ‘show not tell.’ Then you read a book on writing and the author is all: ‘show not tell.’ Annoying right!?

When you write you need to show (not tell) what your characters are thinking through action and dialogue. I know what you’re thinking – it’s far easier to tell the reader everything that’s going on in the characters' minds than show it through action and dialogue. I know, right. It’s tough – but tough bananas (as my mother always says) that’s writing!

There's a tool I’ve been using as I’m writing my current w-i-p (a y/a contemporary drama) that helps me show how my characters are feeling through action.

It’s the Emotion Thesaurus written by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi.  For availability, check out their popular blog, The Bookshelf Muse, which is where it all started.  
Now that's a bunch of tough bananas.

I have a hard copy version of the Emotion Thesaurus that I keep by my computer, and when I’m writing I think: my character is feeling agitated, or paranoid, or resentful (just to name a few emotions the book covers) how would I show that? I look up the emotion and there are a whole lot of actions that show that emotion. (Which leads me to a brief musical interlude where I sing "I second that emotion." I'll stop now.)

It’s great. But I still have to get away from my characters all having gastrological, cardiac and neurological issues – their stomachs always seem to be clenching, hearts pounding, and hands trembling!