Since the beginning of time (it seems),
we’ve been told by every writing guru on the planet:
show, don’t tell.

Your character’s angry.
What does she do?
Slam her hand down onto the table?
Thrust her arms into the air?
Kick something?

(By the way, when confronted or questioned
no character e.v.e.r. says, “I’m so angry!”
We 3-D, flesh-n-blood people don’t admit anger. Uh-uh.
If anything, we deny it and say,
“I’m not angry.”)

Is showing anger really about
large physical movement?
I don’t think so.
(Watch someone who’s angry.)

Usually, those large physical responses —
hand slams, arm thrusts, kicks —
don’t come first. Oh, no.

It’s the silence. It’s the breathing.
It’s not looking at your eyes and getting busy
and those micro-movements like thin lips and staring eyes
(and snide comments)
that show anger.


Another one.
Your character’s sad.
What does he do?
Cry? Sob?

(By the way, when confronted or questioned,
no character e.v.e.r. says, “I’m feeling sad.”
We 3-D flesh-n-blood people don’t admit that we’re sad. Uh-uh.
If anything, we deny it and say,
“I’m okay.”)

Is sadness really about tears?
I don’t think so.
(Watch someone who’s sad.)

Usually, crying doesn’t happen right away.
Oh, no.

Sadness is about staring into space.
It’s holding your breath.
Then it’s breaths that make your chest rise and fall and rise and fall —
and those micro-movements like biting the inside of your cheek
or blinking eyes that look down
(and not being able to speak at all)
that show sadness.

Do you see the pattern here?
(I sure do.)

When we show emotion, it would be prudent to
back up a bit.
Maybe it’s not just show emotions.
Maybe it’s show emotions honestly.
From the beginning.

(Start the emotion in the right place.)

* Thup