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  • Jordan Keller

What I Learned at Writing Group: Show The Feelings

Whether or not you’re in a writing group, I guarantee you’ve heard the phrase “show don’t tell.” Some people will tell you to show everything, others will say to find a healthy balance, and of course, it matters what kind of book you're writing as some genres favor different things.

Here’s my cheat sheet for this ancient rule:

Show The Feelings.

If my character is about to cry, I won’t tell you they’re sad. I’ll show you how the tears are welling in their eyes and how their lower lip trembles. I want to make the reader feel the same way my character is feeling, and I won’t achieve that by just saying the character is sad.

Whenever you find yourself writing “Character Name felt like” stop and write out what they’re doing.

Let’s look at an example from last week…

He felt like the world was spinning around him.

We can correct the sentence to “The world spun around him.” like we did last time, or we can really show that feeling so it reads something like:

He couldn’t keep his surroundings in place as the world spun. He gripped the counter to try and stop the movement, but it was useless. His dizzy spell overtook him, and he crashed to the floor.

Another thing to look out for is if your character is doing something where the adverb ends in “-ly” you can show that action to convey the emotion instead.


“I can’t believe you said that,” she said angrily.

“I can’t believe you said that,” she said, her hands tightening into fists.

Swapping the "-ly" adverb with action will also help show your character, giving your reader a better insight into who they are.

Everyone has their opinions on the Show Don’t Tell rule, and I hope mine helps you and your future novel.

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