Show Don’t Tell: Describing emotion

Woman wiping her eyesHow often have you read something like: ‘He felt embarrassed’? or: ‘She started to cry’? and not really felt the emotion yourself?

When was the last time you started to cry because a character in the book you were reading started to cry? Have you thought about why you felt the emotion strongly enough that it touched something in you?  Continue reading

The eyes have it when it comes to conveying complex mental states

Our facial expressions give away more of what we’re thinking than we thought. New research shows that people’s eyes, in particular, are a dead giveaway.

The function behind a facial expression mirrors the person’s emotional state. So if someone is narrowing their eyes as if they are scrutinising something they are likely to be feeling thoughtful; wondering about something. If you feel as though you are being scrutinised then you probably are.

In Psychological Science we read that:

The research reveals, for example, that people consistently associate narrowed eyes – which can enhance visual discrimination – with discrimination-related emotions including disgust and suspicion.

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Show, Don’t Tell – Writing On The Right Side Of The Brain


negative_space.1There is a book entitled, ‘The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain’, which teaches you to see in a different way.

Where drawing is concerned we often draw what we think we see (left brain) rather than what we can actually see (right brain).

For example, one of the exercises asks you to draw the spaces around and between the object you want to draw (negative space) rather than trying to draw the thing itself.

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Show, Don’t Tell – Descriptive Writing Using Imagery

Some time ago I stumbled across the website, Dear Photograph. It works on the simple idea of taking an old photograph of people you know and holding it up against the original backdrop where it was taken and photographing it so that past and present blend into one photograph.

Along with the images, the photographers write a very short piece about the picture they have uploaded. In a combination of words and image, a vivid story emerges that is often far more than the sum of its parts.

You can see where this is going, can’t you?

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Picture Prompt – Use sparing language

You are standing at the bottom of these stairs looking up.

Why have you come down them and what is waiting for you at the top?

Alternatively, what is behind you at the bottom?

Write about your situation without telling the reader exactly where you are or what is at the top of the stairs – or behind you. Use descriptive language to convey a picture that the reader can build up in their own mind. Make them use their imagination.

Use sparing language and make your reader feel the chill in their bones – whether it is the chill of air temperature or fear.

Remember; it is often what you cannot see that is the most vivid. Hitchcock used this to great effect. He rarely showed violence, he left you to imagine it. Think Psycho and the shower curtain scene.

The art of painting speech

paint paletteWhen I write something my aim is to put forward an idea, thought, or concept, or to tell a story. How do I do it? I make funny little abstract marks on a page. It’s a bit like painting.

What are those abstract marks? You’re looking at them right now. They’re called writing.

Instead of a canvas I use the screen of a computer or a sheet of paper, and instead of a brush I use a keyboard or a pen. My colour palette is the words I use and the brush strokes are my sentences and grammar.

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