Great post on writing emotion! The idea of show, don’t tell is a hard concept for beginning writers to comprehend. Cliches are also an easy mistake to make especially when trying to convey emotions. Using words, specifically abstract nouns, in emotional writing such as “love,” “hate,” “anger,” “fear,” and “guilt” are overused and a different experience for everyone. Using the five senses and description of physical sensations is a much better way to express emotions then telling readers how to feel.
Writing about emotion worries writers because it’s so easy to lapse into sentimentality. The secret is restraint at every level. Whatever moved you, artfully conveyed, will move your readers.
We’ve talked about how showing has more power than telling. Showing also allows a precision that telling lacks. The vocabulary of description is huge; the diction of human emotion is limited and limiting.
The first step is to get yourself out of the way. If you narrate in the first person, you will inevitably start adding adjectives about your own feelings. If you show what you saw and heard rather than experienced, you stimulate readers to respond in ways that mean more to them.
Think for a moment about monster stories and movies. The least effective ones, the least scary, show you the creature over and over in close-ups, lots of fangs and claws and red eyes and slobber and blood…
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