Saturday, May 29, 2010

Showing a Story - Useful Tips from Roseanne Dowell Part Two

How many times have we heard that writing is about 'Showing, not Telling'. Please join Roseanne Dowell with 'showing' solutions that will bring your characters to life. For Part One, and to learn a little about Roseanne, just scroll down the page. Welcome back, Roseanne!

Using Action Tags to Show not Tell
Action tags are another useful tool in showing. Everyone uses body language to convey his or her emotions. We don’t want to use, or should I say overuse, the words he said/she said. And we don’t want to use adverbs to explain our emotions.

In the above example I could have said 'she said' or 'she stuttered' after she opened the door, but it’s obvious she was stuttering so why repeat it. It’s also obvious she’s speaking so why say she said? By using the action tag she stared at him, along with the statement that Rose was seldom at a loss for words shows us a little more about the kind of person Rose is. And clearly the man has her flustered.

What are some of the ways you show surprise? Raised eyebrows, open mouth? Depending on personality - everyone expresses emotions differently. Some people’s eyes fill with tears at just the thought of sadness, while others may out and out cry and still others may just frown or furrow their brow. Describe a scene in such a way that we show our readers emotion and bring them into the story. These emotions create our character. They show us something about their personality.

Show Emotions to the Reader through your Character
Let’s look at another example. – Something hit the house. Rose got up from her chair and went to the door. She saw the kids run next door and wondered why they were bothering her. Compare this to - A thumping noise against the house interrupted Rose’s thoughts. “What in the world?” She jumped from her chair and hurried to the door. Four little pairs of legs raced around the bushes into the next yard. “Little monsters,” she mumbled. “Go throw snowballs at your own house.” Shaking her head, she closed the door, wondering about kids now days. See the difference?” In the first example I tell you something hit the house, Rose got up and went to the door. You don’t see anything in how she felt, or how she moved. In the second example I show her hearing the noise and jumping up from the chair. Clearly she was in a hurry and then the anger. The reader experiences Rose’s anger in the second example. Rose shows us, not the author’s voice. Show the emotions to your reader through your character, using dialogue, action verbs, or description.

The above examples are from Roseanne's new book 'Time to Live Again', available at Red Rose Publishing  and


  1. Good advise is always welcome! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Leigh: This is all good stuff, and something to watch for when doing those 2nd and 3rd drafts, when you've got the plot down and can make corrections like these.

  3. Hi Caroline, Mary and Joyce - thanks so much for stopping by. I love learning about writing from many different writers so Roseanne's given me some useful advice here. Happy writing!