As writers, we hope to portray our characters as real people in the eyes of our readers. “Showing versus telling” is such a crucial aspect of writing, especially when writing critical scenes or dialogues. And in order for us to get it right, we need to understand the actions and reactions of our characters, whether that’s physical, mental, or emotional. For the next couple of weeks, I’ll be sharing some of the tips I’ve learned on how to “show” emotion/action when writing descriptive scenes.
Side note: Telling is also an important aspect of writing since it is necessary in order for the story to advance. But, for this series in particular, I want to focus on showing since I’m a big believer that showing, as opposed to telling, helps readers connect at a deeper level with characters.
Tip #1: Use the Character’s Five Senses
(touch, hearing, taste, sight, and smell).
Perhaps the most common sense writers use when “showing” is the sense of sight. Although sight is a significant sense to use when writing descriptive language, consider using the sense of smell, touch, hearing, and/or taste instead (or a combination of these) in order to give the scene a more well-rounded atmosphere.
“Allie felt nervous as soon as Patrick touched her.”
Instead of telling the reader how Allie felt (nervous), allow the reader to figure out the emotion Allie is feeling on their own. A key way to do so is using Allie’s body language to convey her feeling. In this example, I will use the sense of touch. You might also want to describe how and in what way Patrick “touched” Allie.
“Allie bit her lower lip as Patrick’s muscled bicep brushed against her shoulder.”
“Lisa was tired from work, so she took a bath.”
Rather than telling us the feeling (she is tired) and the action (taking a bath), show us the feeling and the character’s reaction to it. For this example, I will use the senses of touch, smell and smell.
“After having waited for ten hours, Lisa submerged her aching body in the bathtub’s warm water as the lemon scented bath salts filled her nostrils.”
Now give it a try! Come up with a simple, “telling” sentence and convert it into a “showing” one using one of the five senses.
Keep your eyes peeled for next week’s tip!