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Show Don't Tell - Writing Emotions

Have you ever tried writing an emotional scene and just came up flat? That happens to all writers at one time or another, especially if theyíre just starting out. To be sure there are times when just telling makes the best impact, but more often than not showing is what brings your writing to life.

The following are examples are from my own novels in progress, under the pseudonym Desiree Addams. I share with you the before lines, what I wrote just to get it down on paper, and what I ended up with after reworking them.

Curiosity

Definition: Being inquisitive. Having a strong desire to know or learn about something or someone.

Before:

I wanted to know about him, to experience the pleasures he offered. I was curious. I didnít know what to do. If I did, I didnít know what was going to happen. Would I become like him? I didnít know if I even had a choice. Every scenario I came up with looked bad.

After:

A burning desire to experience the pleasures he offered overwhelmed me. If I did, what would that indulgence cost me? Would I become like him?

Did I even have a choice?

The potential answers sucked.

Addams, Desiree. To Die For: Bound to Love. Twisted Tale # 1. TS. Collection of Desiree Addams, Shawnee, Kansas.

Fear

Definition: To perceive or expect something or someone as a danger or threat.

Before:

He was there, in front of me. Adrian. ďHello, Desiree. Nice to see you. I couldnít wait for this.Ē He smiled.

I didnít know what to do. I closed my eyes. What is going on? I was at a loss.
After:

I stopped dead in my tracks.

My blood ran cold.

It was him, Adrian!

ďHello, Desiree, so nice to see you. In the flesh. Iíve waited a long time.Ē A broad, seductive smile stretched across his face.

I closed my eyes and rubbed them, hard. Dear God, let me dreaming. Had I fallen asleep at my desk? Was I walking in my sleep? I shook my head and opened my eyes.

Addams, Desiree. To Die For: Bound to Love. Twisted Tale # 1. TS. Collection of Desiree Addams, Shawnee, Kansas.

Sadness

Definition: A feeling of grief or unhappiness. The state of being sad.

Before:

I hated being without him. I was afraid and confused. I cried. I didnít like being in my room anymore.

After:

ÖI pulled my legs into my chest curling into a ball. My once familiar room had become foreign, un-inviting.

Hot, salty tears streamed down my cheeks into the corners of my mouth. My throat constricted and my eyes burned. I stared out the window, reaching for a tissue from my nightstand.

Addams, Desiree. To Die For: Bound to Love. Twisted Tale # 1. TS. Collection of Desiree Addams, Shawnee, Kansas.

Surprise

Definition: A feeling of mild astonishment or shock. An unexpected feeling of wonder, joy or fear.

Before:

I didnít know what to say. It had been a long time. I sure missed them. I needed to talk to them. I didnít know where to start.

After:

I rubbed the back of my neck, rolling my earlobe between my fingers. I pushed up from the bed, cell phone in hand, walking a rut into the carpet.

Where do I start?

Addams, Desiree. To Die For: Itís Complicated. Twisted Tale # 2. TS. Collection of Desiree Addams, Shawnee, Kansas.

The four emotions I dealt with above curiosity, fear, sadness and surprise, as well as many others, can have overlapping physical signals, internal sensations and mental responses. For example eyes growing wide, inability to speak and images of what-could-be flashing through oneís mind can signal nervousness, surprise, fear or a mixture of those emotions. It all depends on the context of where the scene is set.

Happy writing!

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