Today’s Writing Tip


Another thing to watch for when you get to your second draft is showing as opposed to telling. Some narrative is always required, but often it can be said in a more interesting way that engages your reader.

For example, saying “He was angry” is telling. Saying “His eyes bore into his opponent like steel rods, fists clenched and trembling at his side” shows it. Note how the second version renders the emotion in a more relatable manner. It also contains imagery. In fact, of the IDEAS described in yesterday’s Tip, it includes imagery, emotion, action, and suspense. If it were included in the midst of dialog, it would cover that, too. See how much more effective that is?



Today’s Writing Tip

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A fundamental rule of good writing is to show, not tell. Saying “He was angry” is telling. Saying “His eyes bore into his opponent like steel rods, fists clenched at his side” is showing.

Showing is especially important in rendering emotions, which are essential for sucking your reader into the story. Some emotions are anger, love, hate, betrayal, disappointment, grief, heartbreak, and so forth. These words are okay to use in your first draft, but when you start to edit, stop and consider how you can describe what the character is feeling instead of taking the easy way out. Aim to avoid using that word entirely, but to render it in such a way that the reader knows exactly how your character is feeling at that point in your story.

Today’s Writing Tip

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As part of the admonition to “show, don’t tell”, learn to render emotions as opposed to using a simple modifier. Compare the impact of “He fumed with anger” to “His eyes flashed daggers, fists tightening at his sides” or “His heart raced, fury surging through him like a fire storm.” Concentrate on the physical sensations of the emotion you’re trying to express to capture what it actually feels like. One of the marks of good writing is conveying emotions to your reader in an effective manner. If your reader feels something, then your story is upgraded to an experience and becomes much more memorable.