Tag Archive - Show don’t tell

Showing Your Scenes through Your Characters’ Senses

One of the reasons readers willingly immerse themselves in a story is to be transported. Whether it’s to another planet, another era—past or future—or just into a character’s daily life, readers want to be swept away from their world and into another—the world of the writer’s imagination.

It’s challenging for writers to know how much detail to put in scenes to effectively transport a reader. Too much can dump info, drag the pacing of the story, and bore or overwhelm. Conversely, too little detail can create confusion or fail to evoke a place enough to rivet the reader.

In addition to knowing how much detail to show, writers have to decide what kind of details to use. I often read scenes in the manuscripts I critique, for example, that have characters engaging in lots of gestures, such as rubbing a neck, bringing a hand to a cheek, pushing fingertips together, turning or moving toward something—all for no clear reason.

Showing body movement, gestures, and expressions can be an effective way to indicate a character’s emotional state, but this needs thoughtful consideration so that the gesture or expression packs the punch desired.

I’d like to speak to the importance of showing setting—and not just showing it in any old way. What is key to creating a powerful setting is to show it through your character’s POV and in a way that feels significant. Continue Reading…

Evoking Emotions in Readers in a Masterful Way – Part 5

I’m picking up where we left off a couple of months ago, looking at the masterful writing of some amazingly talented authors. I want to revisit the topic of evoking emotions since that is one of the most difficult things to achieve yet so very crucial.

Surprisingly, there are very few blog posts and books that address this topic. Writers are told to “show, don’t tell” in order to draw readers into their stories. But we all know that “showing” a character pointing a gun at another character, and even showing the character is trembling or sweating, doesn’t ensure readers will be tense or scared or shocked.

If you’ve not taken the time to read the previous four posts in this series, I highly encourage you to do so. Start with the first one here. We write to evoke a response in our readers, and the primary purpose of fiction is to elicit an emotional response. Think about it. Readers of fiction aren’t reading to acquire facts, such as they might do when studying a nonfiction book. They read to be entertained, affected. They read to be tense, laugh, worry, get excited. In other words, they read to feel something.

And your job as a fiction writer is to masterfully write in a way that will evoke a specific emotional response in your reader. You may not be able to name exactly what those emotions are, but you should know what those emotions feel like when you experience them.

To reiterate: we’ve been looking at the way thoughts lead to emotions, and how getting into our characters’ thoughts can be a powerful tool to evoking emotion in our readers. When we show what our characters are thinking, via the narrative or direct thoughts (when in their POV), and even in dialogue (whether in the POV or not), we can sense what they might be feeling. Sometimes the feelings are obvious, but masterful writing will imply the complexity of the character’s emotions. Continue Reading…

Masterful Telling of Emotion

Today’s guest post is by Nina Schuyler. It continues our look at masterful writing, introducing the element of emotional content in our novels. The craft of not only expressing emotion  in our characters but also evoking emotion in our readers is one of the most important things to master in fiction writing. In this post, Nina Schuyler shows us that telling about emotions can be just as powerful as showing those emotions in your characters.

Early on, when I was young and innocent and studying writing, it was vigorously pounded in my head that I must never ever tell a character’s emotion. T. S. Eliot’s “objective correlative” entered the conversation (events, objects, and actions must stand for or correlate to the desired emotion), along with fiction’s allure, which is to give readers an embodied experience—or as George Saunders tells storytellers, “Go forth and delight!”

But now, having read more, studied more, gotten older, I’ve encountered plenty of published works that tell the emotion. It’s right there, in big letters, winking at me—HE FELT. SHE FEELS—sad, happy, joyful, angry, embarrassed. And I do experience the told emotion. How is this possible? What’s going on?

The magic is in the way the telling is done. Continue Reading…

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