As an English teacher, I always thought I knew the difference between showing and telling in your writing. Then I sent my first book out. One agent was nice enough to tell me that it wasn’t “showing” enough and recommended an editor.
I looked into the woman she suggested and she read my first few pages for free. Then she gave me the best advice. Tell the story as if your character wears a video camera. They can only see or hear what’s right in front of them. In other words, they wouldn’t know Jennifer was scared, but they could see her shaking or rubbing her arms or her eyes darting around. All of these would give the idea that Jennifer was scared. When I looked back at my first chapter, I realized I hadn’t done this. I had instead relied on adverbs – she said shakily. Not all adverbs are bad, but a lot of times you can add “showing” words and get rid of them. It also allows your reader to feel your characters more.
The next piece of advice she gave me was to plug her book. Not her fiction book, she wasn’t that shameless, but her Emotion Thesaurus book. This book goes through many common emotions and tells what their gestures might be or what they might be feeling inside. It is indispensable. However, you could do the same thing using a mirror. Think about you would feel if you were scared. Try to act it out. Then write what you do. My husband walked in on me writing one night and probably thought I was nuts as I was sitting there tucking my hair behind my ear, twirling my ring, and raising my eyebrows, but I was trying to see what it would look like and how to describe the gesture.
I think showing and not telling made my books even better and I work with my students to do more of this in their writing too. It’s an easy fix, though one that takes practice.
Happy writing. I’ll share more insight soon. If you have questions, I will be happy to answer them if I can.
Lorana Hoopes is a Christian author who focuses on the inspirational with a touch of romance.Her books are available at Amazon.