1. essential life
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    essential life Member

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    Stating the emotion or suggesting it?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by essential life, Aug 24, 2009.

    What do you prefer to do...and when?

    For instance:

    1. You can say that the character "looked embarrassed".

    2. You can say that the character "blushed".

    In either case, you're trying to get to the same emotion, but in different ways.
     
  2. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    If there's one thing I've learned from these forums, it's "Show, don't tell."
    He blushed if he's embarrassed.
    He shuffled his feet if he's nervous or feeling awkward.
    His face contorted with rage if someone smacked him in the head for no reason.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    This may help: Show and Tell
     
  4. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    More often than not, describe the behaviour instead of stating the emotion. However, there are times when there is nothing wrong with saying it.
     
  5. Daladamn
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    Daladamn Member

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    Which ever sounds/feels more right to write at the moment, we all know you read and reread something you end up changing and changing back and changing and so on and so forth( can i possibly get another and in). And so when you write it, I say go with your first instinct. Because it'll more than likely change according to when you read it again. If you end up rereading over it without pausing to change, then you know you made the right move. Just try not to get too caught up with a particular phrase, because if it didn't 'come to you' right away but your stuck on it, then you'll probably have more luck a little down the line. In that the right words might strike you after going into further detail of the happenings around the phrase.
     
  6. soujiroseta
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    soujiroseta Senior Member Contributor

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    I have read a lot of books and stories where i feel like the emotion is better suggested. Even in my own writing i try to show how my character is feeling rather than just stating it. To quote Cogito's blog on show and tell, "showing is often much more concise when the message is complex or ambiguous." ,which i find works well for emotion as there may be some underlying message which simply telling could not portray.
     
  7. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I don't personally think showing and not (just) showing is saying enough. My opinion is to try to invoke the emotion in the reader, so they feel along with her.

    There really isn't much difference between the following.

    She tripped, dropped her books, and blushed.
    She tripped, dropped her books, and was so embarrassed.

    Neither help us feel how she is feeling. In fact, the second one does more for me than the first.

    Mary stepped through the class door. As always when she was late, all eyes focused on her. Of course, Mrs. Thomson would want a note or some excuse. All those searching eyes would remain fixed on her until she slipped the teacher the note her mother wrote for her. Her face felt hot, and she was aware of her heartbeat now as she hugged her books against her chest. Then her feet betrayed her, sending her crashing against the hard floor, where her books slid to a stop. Someone laughed, but she could barely hear him with her now muffled hearing. She heard her heart beating well, though. It pounded at her temples and behind her eyes, screwing up her vision. When she slowly stood up, trying to hide behind her hair, her knees trembled . . . blah blah

    It's just a quick example, but hopefully I go the point across. I think that is what most instructors mean by show and not tell. :)
     
  8. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    It is situational, to be honest, and it also depends upon your style of writing.

    I cannot think of any immediate examples, but an idea, a concept, a -feeling- comes to mind for why just telling would be better in some situations.
    After all, no one likes too much description.

    Hmmmm.

    Oh, like so:


    I mean, what kind of situation are we talking about, here, you see? We ALWAYS hear about the 'show; don't tell,' but there is always an exception.
     
  9. Marx
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    Marx Member

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    Always, always, always show rather than tell.
    Originally suggested by the great T.S. Eliot.
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I would not say always. Each approach has both advantages and disadvantages.
     
  11. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    I wouldn't say always either. If my character smacked his leg on a bolder while he was escaping from a bunch of people, I'm going to say, "His leg aching, he continued to run ..."

    The closest thing I would say to showing would be "He staggered for a moment, but then he continued."

    I won't go out of my way to show, "He hopped on one foot and an abnormal vibration across his knee" or something like that -- in my opinion, the first example I gave would be the best...

    So, in conclusion, Cogito, IMO is right...
     

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