Emotion: Show, Don’t Tell

Your readers may not be able to associate with everything that you write about: not everybody is married, or has had children, or has been to New York, and so on. However, one thing that we can all connect with is emotion. Being madly in love with someone (or something). Being around excited children. Visiting a lively, bustling place. Emotions can connect our readers to things that they have never witnessed or experienced before.

Our theme for this month is emotion. We have already thought about where we should include emotion in our writing so that it can have the biggest impact on our readers. Today, we’re going to think more about the actual act of writing emotions.

There are lots of ways to write emotions. You can make them raw and simple, or you can build up dramatic scenes, use elaborate metaphors, describe expressions or body language, and utilise the power of speech. Each of these methods (and more) can create the emotion that you desire, but one important thing to remember is: show, don’t tell.

Let’s take a look at an example. You could say:

“She was so sad that she cried.”

This is a fine sentence, but it isn’t tugging at anybody’s heartstrings. So, instead, perhaps you could say:

“As the sadness descended upon her, she felt tears slide down her cheeks.”

Now the emotion is starting to build in the sentence, but I’m still telling when I mention that she is sad. Let’s try to describe sadness without mentioning the emotion directly:

“She flopped down onto the bed like dead weight, as tears began to slide down her cheeks.”

I could go further: her lips could tremble, she could whimper, or the tears could become heavier. This sentence is just the beginning of a description that could get more emotional if the writer desired it. I will not go on, but we can see that there is much more emotion in the final example than in the first. We are no longer telling anymore.

We’ve all told rather than shown at some point, and depending on how much detail there is in one piece of writing, that may not be a bad thing. Why not go back through something you have written before to see if you have changed an emotion you told into an emotion that you can show?

This month’s theme is EMOTION. If you have written something that you would like me to share on this blog on the theme of emotions, then please post a link in the comments or email me on lauramarieclark1@gmail.com with the subject: Emotion.

8 thoughts on “Emotion: Show, Don’t Tell

  1. Laura!
    Its a very nice word “Emotion” and that the way you would like it to be expressed is something unique-show-dont-tell. You would like to encourage bloggers to give the link of their posts so as to Re-blog. That’s really fine, this only fact remains to show that you are also doing it -show dont-tell. Thanks and Congrats!
    I would not want to give any link of my posts, I think you know better, you can choose any of my posts and re-blog them as you have done before. You are an ardent reader of my blog and I need not tell you can show.
    Regards and Love to You,


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