Showing Emotions: Finding the Right Balance

by Jami Gold on September 25, 2014

in Writing Stuff

Stacked stones in a tower with text: Balancing Emotions in Our Story

I’ve mentioned before that one of my “most improved” writing skills is writing with emotion. At least I hope so, but there’s always room for further improvement. *smile*

The ability to manipulate our readers’ emotions is a good thing (as screwed up as that sounds). We can probably all think of books with so-so writing quality that manage to be popular with readers anyway because readers are sucked into the story. How do they manage that trick?

Storytelling and keeping readers’ interest often comes down to creating emotions in our readers. So let’s take a closer look at how we create emotions in our readers and what we need to keep in mind to find the right balance.

The Elements of Writing that Create Emotion

As I mentioned in my post about strengthening emotions, every aspect of our writing can convey emotion:

  • Dialogue: “I want you to leave. Now.”
  • Dialogue Cues: Her voice broke.
  • Thoughts: She couldn’t take anymore.
  • Action: She slammed the door.
  • Body Language: She crossed her arms.
  • Visceral (Internal) Reaction: Her chest tightened.

One element I didn’t include in that list is narrative. When they involve emotion, narrative (descriptive) sentences (excluding any sentences that would fall into the above categories) are “telling” and not “showing.”

In most cases, narrative emotional cues would be the bad kind of telling too, like “She was angry.” Usually, our writing will be more compelling and use a deeper point of view if we don’t name emotions, but instead use dialogue, thoughts, action, or visceral reactions to get the information across to the reader.

The Three Ways We Need to Balance Emotions

Those elements seem straightforward enough. So why do we struggle with writing emotions?

One major reason we struggle with writing emotions is because there are multiple ways we can screw it up. We need to balance emotion in our story in three ways:

Amount of Emotion Shown:

We need to match the stimulus (the trigger, or cause, for the emotion) with the response.

Variety of Emotion Shown:

We need to show an emotional journey for our characters by changing their responses to the plot events over the course of the story.

  • Too simplistic of emotional responses and our characters don’t feel layered. We need our characters’ emotions to change as they adjust to the plot events. A character who’s always angry isn’t interesting.
  • Too complex and readers might not be able to follow our characters’ emotional journey. If our characters’ emotions change too frequently, we risk them coming across like fickle teenagers. (Even if we are writing teenagers, we still have to give the reader something to relate to other than sheer chaos. *smile*)

Elements of Emotion Shown:

We need to mix and match the elements we use to portray characters’ emotions. During big emotional reactions, we can’t get across a full emotional experience by relying only on dialogue, or only on thoughts, etc.

  • Too external of a response (dialogue/dialogue cues, body language, and action) and readers won’t have enough information to know what the character is really thinking or feeling. Sure, we might say the character crossed their arms, but was that due to anger, fear, shyness, or simply being cold? If you’re familiar with Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi’s The Emotion Thesaurus, you’ve probably noticed that the same body language cues can indicate multiple emotions. Readers need more information.
  • Too internal of a response (thoughts and visceral reactions) and we can easily overuse some of our best tools.
    • Thoughts: As I mentioned in the Option A example of my post about using layers to show emotions, we need to share characters’ thoughts to reveal the why—she’s angry or scared or worried because… (She’s afraid xyz will happen, etc.) However, sharing too many thoughts can result in “telling” the reader everything in an “on the nose” style rather than allowing emotions to grow in the subtext. We want to share thoughts, but only in the character’s voice and only as much as needed.
    • Visceral Reactions: Similarly, involuntary physiological responses are great for showing the gut reactions of our characters, but if we use too many, our characters can seem constantly on the verge of a heart attack. (A pain grew in her chest and she couldn’t breathe, etc.) We want to save visceral reactions for triggers that would cause a gut check, and not use them for just any random, mildly bad news for our characters.

Finding the Right Balance

With all those potential pitfalls, it’s no wonder that we sometimes miss the mark. As Angela Ackerman pointed out, just because we know how to “show rather than tell” doesn’t mean we’re home free.

Sometimes we’ll feel the need to explain and show and tell. Or sometimes our character’s emotional response will over-show, with melodrama, purple prose, or near-heart-attacks.

The wrong balance can create a shallow point of view or distant emotions. The wrong balance can cause slow pacing. The wrong balance can create two-dimensional characters. In other words, the wrong balance won’t engage readers in our storytelling.

To find the right balance, we’ll probably have to rely on the two tried-and-true feedback methods. If we gain distance from our story, we can self-edit by reading our character’s emotional response in the full context of the story to see if it’s an off-note. Or we can use beta readers, critique partners, or editors to know when we’ve succeeded or failed at finding the right balance.

Either way, feedback from others or from our instincts can be our best weapon for getting the balance just right. The reward for succeeding might be readers who can’t put down our story. *smile*

Do you disagree that creating emotion in the reader is important for keeping their interest? Can you think of times when using narrative sentences for emotion might work? Can you think of other ways we need to balance emotions in our writing? Do you struggle with some kinds of balancing more than others? How do you find the right balance?

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32 Comments below - Time to Add your own.

Elle Love September 25, 2014 at 7:44 am

Hi Jami,
As a newbie writer, I struggle with finding the right amount of emotion. My character’s response doesn’t always match the trigger. My critique partners are able to point out what needs fixed. I value their feedback and your blog. Thanks for the excellent post!

Reply

Jami Gold September 25, 2014 at 4:28 pm

Hi Elle,

I understand. I think I might be getting better, but it’s so easy to misjudge. :/ I’m glad you have your critique partners to help you out, and hopefully with this post, you’ll have a better idea about what might need fixing. 🙂 Good luck and thanks for the comment!

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R. A. Meenan September 25, 2014 at 8:40 am

Great post! I’ve always felt that this is the most important aspect of the Showing vs. Telling debate. The more we show emotions rather than tell them, the stronger our characters can get.

I like that you discussed balance. I’ve never really thought of the melodramatic side of showing emotion, but I can definitely see it happening.

It’s funny that your telling emotion example was “She was angry” because that’s what I use when teaching students about showing vs. telling.

Telling: “She was angry.”

Showing: “Her nostrils flared, her hands formed fists, and she gritted her teeth, glaring at him.”

You don’t NEED to say “she was angry” in the second example. Happy people generally don’t act like that. XD

Love your post. I’m adding it to my list of writing tips.

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Jami Gold September 25, 2014 at 4:40 pm

Hi R.A.,

The first time I was exposed to the “showing” method of emotion, with all of those elements I mentioned, the excerpt used in the class struck me as being melodramatic. I know now that it was probably just the fact that the excerpt was missing any context, but it took me a while to accept that emotion didn’t equal melodrama. But because of my initial reaction, I always emphasize balance and finding the right match between trigger and emotional reaction. 🙂

LOL! at your happy people don’t generally act like that. 🙂 Yep! Thanks for the comment!

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Angela Ackerman September 25, 2014 at 10:53 am

You write the best posts on this Jami–thanks for all the links. I love it because it allows people to find help any step of the way. Emotion is a complicated element, and you explain it so very well!

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Jami Gold September 25, 2014 at 4:41 pm

Hi Angela,

Aww, thank you! From you–the co-author of The Emotion Thesaurus–that means a lot. *blush* Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

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Jacquie Biggar September 25, 2014 at 11:07 am

Loved this post Jami, there’s nothing better than losing oneself in the emotions on the page. I know it’s a good book, when I look up and have to blink myself back into the room, 🙂
I can only hope to one day write that well.

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Jami Gold September 25, 2014 at 4:42 pm

Hi Jacquie,

Ooo, yes, I love that feeling. That’s what I read for. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Carradee September 25, 2014 at 12:35 pm

Do you disagree that creating emotion in the reader is important for keeping their interest? Can you think of times when using narrative sentences for emotion might work?

Genre and target audience are factors. Hard sci-fi, for instance, tends to be more about the underlying ideas and what the characters do than how they’re feeeeeeeling. In that situation—and dependent on the overall style and point of the scene or story—summarizing “He was furious” might very well be better than even “He ground his teeth in fury.”

Can you think of other ways we need to balance emotions in our writing?

Character and PoV make a difference in where the balance needs to be. I’ve dabbled in converting A Fistful of Fire into 3rd person, past tense (it’s 1st person, present), and it’s interesting to see how much that changes. Some lines, I have to outright decide if I want to keep the original phrasing or the original tone/mood, because I can’t keep both.

Bestsellers succeed because they connect with their readership. Different readerships want different things, but you have to connect with that readership’s emotions to get them viscerally interested. That takes different things for different genres or types of writing.

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Jami Gold September 25, 2014 at 4:49 pm

Hi Carradee,

Agreed that genre makes a difference. In fact, I had a whole ‘nother section of this post written about plot-driven stories and how those handle emotions, but I decided that topic deserved its own post. So thanks for playing into my plans. Mwhahaha! Maybe next week. 😉

Great point too about character and POV changing the balance as well. Some characters will be more emotionally expressive than others. I think this is one of the reasons I struggled so much with the characters in my first novel–the heroine is very emotionally distant–so it wasn’t until I started writing a different story and character that I saw what emotion in writing could be. Thanks, as always, for sharing your great insights! 😀

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Carradee September 26, 2014 at 7:11 pm

The narrator of the novel I’m wrapping up now—which is in “close” first person, present tense—actively represses and ignores a lot of her own emotions. –_– She’s sometimes aware of them, but her default is to dismiss them and focus on what others “need” (or want) to see. Part of that’s necessity. She’s been through a lot of sh*t.

(Her father fathered a bunch of children just so he could mold them into what he wanted, and he picked her to be a player on the shadow game. Ended up being good for her in some ways, because it enabled her to break loose eventually—most of her siblings died before they got the chance—but wow, is she messed up. For instance, she’s is the type of person who nurtures, protects, and takes care of others even if it harms her…and she is convinced she shouldn’t be trusted with children. She’s even pregnant in the story, and from the start, her plan is to hand the baby to the father and flee for the child’s own good…and keep an eye on him from afar.)

Interestingly, this particular character pays attention to physical reactions, which leads to lines like “Something skitters along my bones. It takes me a moment to recognize the sensation as discomfort.”

More than one character ends up going something like, “IT’S OKAY TO BE [whatever emotion she’s ignoring at the moment]!”

I think those other characters might be part of why the character’s working.

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Jami Gold September 30, 2014 at 9:52 am

Hi Carradee,

“Interestingly, this particular character pays attention to physical reactions, which leads to lines like “Something skitters along my bones. It takes me a moment to recognize the sensation as discomfort.””

Interesting! And great example of how emotions can be very individual to the character–and if we’re writing in deep POV, they should be specific to the individual. And great point too about how we can use other characters to fill in the blanks on unexpressive characters. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Robin September 25, 2014 at 1:45 pm

Hmm… I think that between this artical and the comments, I know what kept me from finishing the last Issac Asimov book I read… It was too much about ideas (good, Interesting Ideas, here, don’t get me wrong) and not enough about character… not enough emotion to keep me invested in the story…
Thanks for another interesting blog post!

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Jami Gold September 25, 2014 at 4:52 pm

Hi Robin,

Interesting! Especially when combined with Carradee’s point about authors knowing their readership.

I’d go so far as to say that book was probably geared toward readers more interested in ideas than characters or emotions. (I’ve read many (most?) of Asimov’s work, so this is more than a suspicion. 😉 ) Thanks for the comment!

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Ebony September 25, 2014 at 8:05 pm

Do you struggle with some kinds of balancing more than others? How do you find the right balance?

Currently I’m struggling with a certain character in a story of mine. This character doesn’t have much emotion…or at least, they don’t show it. They are quite distant and make it difficult to balance out emotions with other aspects of them. Right now, I’m trying to show their inner battle with their own suppressed emotions (the ones they still feel, anyways) but I’m hoping to find a better way to show emotion (and balance them out). Until then, this blog post helps a lot (not just with them, but with other characters as well)! Thanks for the advice!

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Jami Gold September 25, 2014 at 8:43 pm

Hi Ebony,

I hear you. :/ As I mentioned in my comment to Carradee above, the heroine of my first novel was like that. I finally had to set that story aside and work on other stories so I could learn better how to capture emotions. Someday, I’ll go back to that story, now that I have the tools. 🙂

As you said, we might show them suppressing or shoving aside the thoughts they don’t want to have. My post about using layers might help too. Good luck and thanks for the comment!

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Autumn Macarthur September 26, 2014 at 3:58 am

Great article thanks Jami!

This is something I’ve struggled with. Having an editor whose most frequent repeated comment in my manuscripts is “But what is he/she feeling? SHOW me!” has helped a lot. That and The Emotion Thesaurus, which I recommend to every writer I know! I write romance, and getting the reader emotionally involved in the character’s inner life is way more important there than in some other genres, like the science fiction mentioned.

One of the things I was most pleased to see in reader reviews of my first published book were comments that the story was deeply emotional and pulled the reader right into the character’s emotions.

I do sometimes wonder if I put in too much emotion though and slow the pacing down too far.

Varying up emotional responses is an issue for me too. It’s easy to rely on the same visceral responses over and over until they become clichéd and repetitive. My challenge now is finding new ways to describe the effect of emotions on the character without straying so far from the usual that readers miss what the emotion is! 🙂

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Jami Gold September 26, 2014 at 8:21 am

Hi Autumn,

Good point! Yes, the readership of the romance genre expects far more emotion than some of the other genres. So what passes for melodrama in some genres would be seen as normal in others. 🙂

Good point too about how there’s a limit to how uniquely descriptive we can get about a response. As you said, the point is for readers to recognize the response and know what it means. No doubt that this is tricky. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Serena Yung September 26, 2014 at 3:06 pm

About whether “telling” emotions in the narrative (naming emotions) is better or showing visceral/ bodily reactions is better in general, I think it depends on the reader’s personal experience and what they’re used to reading. I think the vast majority of books I’ve ever read in my life “told” emotions and named them (even Harry Potter, if I recall correctly), so I don’t feel emotionally detached at all when reading “telling”, lol. In fact, words like “euphoria” really DO make me feel euphoric. But I do understand what you mean, because, for instance, two of my writer friends feel an emotional reaction to actions and gestures (e.g. he smiled at the sunset) but NOT towards emotion words. However, I myself respond quite strongly to emotion words (so “grief”, “anguish”, “despair”, etc. DO have a strong emotional effect on me when I see a character feeling these emotions), but I do see that NOT ALL readers respond to these mood words as much as I do, haha.

Some examples of named / told emotions that were very effective with me as a reader, are the Dostoyevsky (Crime and Punishment) and George Eliot (Mill on the Floss) novels. Seriously, almost all the emotions are told in emotion words, not shown in bodily gestures, lol. But these emotion words once again had a huge effect on me. So again, it all depends on what the individual reader is used to reading!

So it could be that I’m used to seeing the majority of the books I read (not just the literary classics) “tell emotions”, so I see it as the norm and am thus not turned off by them, or it could just be my personal quirk that I simply respond viscerally to mere words too, lol.

On the other hand, one of the Chinese online stories I’ve been reading very often describes body language instead of writing out emotion words. This is nice, but I just see the same words describing these all the time—I see the same gestures all the time, so it sometimes gets a bit tiring. One concern I have about showing body language rather than naming emotions, is that often people use the same bodily gestures all the time and you get sick of seeing them, lol. Not that I’m not guilty of this myself, haha. But about repeated gestures, there are different norms for this. For the Chinese martial arts books I read, a character could “laugh/ smile” (basically the same word in Chinese) many times on the same two pages and no one would bat an eyelid, because it’s very normal to see so much laughing and smiling in Chinese books, it seems, lol. As for the English children or preteen books I read as a kid, including Harry Potter, there is a set of “standard gestures” that they all use, like “frowned, smiled, jaw dropped, eyes went wide, froze, rolled his eyes, gritted his teeth, tightened her fists, stamped her foot, crossed her arms”, etc. So even though you could say these used and reused (recycled) “standard gestures” sound really clichéd and used by (just about) EVERYBODY, it is precisely because everybody uses these “standard gestures” that readers aren’t too bothered about them appearing too often in a story. Readers have been desensitized and habituated to these expressions!

So maybe the reason why that online story’s body language descriptions eventually annoyed me a bit, was because I wasn’t used to seeing such descriptions. I don’t think I’ve ever read a Chinese story with so much body language described like this, (not that Chinese stories never describe body language, but that they name/ tell emotions more often instead) and thus, when you read something you’re not used to, it sticks out to you. When something that sticks out to you reappears very frequently, it can annoy you. But if it’s something like “smiled/ laughed” that you see ALL the time in Chinese stories, then this is a word that appears so commonly that it doesn’t stick out to me at all and thus doesn’t bother me, haha. In contrast, I think in English, though “smiled” and “laughed” are common, they aren’t as commonly used as they are in Chinese, so for my English stories, I would limit my smiling and laughing much more. (Haha that sounded like I was determined not to be cheerful. :D)

Anyway, wasn’t that a fun discussion on different reader experiences and norms for how to write emotions?

However, even though I’m sometimes (but not always) skeptical of using body language rather than emotion words to convey emotions because of the above reasons, I really like the “showing” of emotion through dialogue and internal dialogue/ thoughts! I find those types of showing very effective. For instance, a character using more ejaculations (“Oh” “Ah” “Um” “Uh”) sounds more relaxed or less confident than a character who uses almost no or no ejaculations; the latter may even sound uptight, dead serious, or unfriendly, closed, guarded. Just a little something I discovered! My hero is cold towards strangers and people he doesn’t care about, but is very warm and friendly towards people he really likes; so I subtly show this a bit when he uses almost no ejaculations when speaking to strangers, but uses a LOT more ejaculations when he’s with his best friends, his sister, or the heroine! 😀 Someone who uses exclamation marks in their dialogue more often also looks cuter or bubblier than someone who uses no exclamation marks in their dialogue, in my opinion.

And of course, when we show the characters’ thoughts (whether in indirect narration or in direct italicized or quoted thoughts), this shows us the reasons why they are feeling such and such, their motivations. So by seeing what they’re thinking of, you can imagine what they must be feeling.

For the amount of emotion shown balancing act, again, I find that there are different norms within different social circles of books. The literary classics, I find, tend to talk about emotions in a more dramatic way (with their told and named emotions), and I’m not bothered by that, because almost all literary classics do that, haha. But I believe for a lot of modern fiction nowadays, readers prefer a writer to understate rather than to overstate an emotional reaction, i.e. the “less is more” approach, whereas the 19th and 18th century writers would use all those elaborate phrases to describe that emotional turmoil. 😀

But in general, I agree that we should TRY to have the level of emotional intensity MATCH what the character should be feeling, rather than deliberately understating or overstating it, haha.

 “Too simplistic of emotional responses and our characters don’t feel layered. We need our characters’ emotions to change as they adjust to the plot events. A character who’s always angry isn’t interesting.
 Too complex and readers might not be able to follow our characters’ emotional journey. If our characters’ emotions change too frequently, we risk them coming across like fickle teenagers. (Even if we are writing teenagers, we still have to give the reader something to relate to other than sheer chaos. *smile*)

Ooh! Interesting points I never thought about before. About emotions changing as they adjust to the plot events, that’s like a character arc change over time, right? Or at least the character’s changing attitude towards something? (E.g. maybe if they’ve experienced so much horrific stuff, they’ll gradually become desensitized, which might be their body’s mechanism to deal with that stress?)

Wait—actually I think I misread. Yeah, I see what you mean about seeing characters who show different “emotional sides” being more 3D and complex; I agree. On the other hand, characters who are always angry can be great comic relief, lol! But that’s just my fondness for flat comic relief characters, haha. Hmm but the overall question of how varied the character’s emotions are, I think depends on what exact plot events they are experiencing and in what order they are experiencing them. As long as the character’s response to a specific plot event at a specific time makes sense (seems logical), I think I as a reader should be okay with it. : )

“However, sharing too many thoughts can result in “telling” the reader everything in an “on the nose” style rather than allowing emotions to grow in the subtext. We want to share thoughts, but only in the character’s voice and only as much as needed.”

Hmm, about this, I think, again, it depends on what the reader is used to reading. There are books that don’t do a lot of thoughts, or only have very short thoughts occasionally (if I remember correctly, George R.R. Martin’s italicized thoughts tend to be just one sentence), and books that have long paragraph(s) of thoughts, like Dostoyevsky’s! I personally like the Dostoyevsky style better, because it gives you this feeling of “psychological/ emotional intensity”; this method is very good for making a character look really neurotic, anxious, panicky, depressed, etc. However, I wouldn’t use long internalizing passages ALL the time, but only when the situation calls for it. Sometimes we don’t need to know so much or feel so much of that emotion.

Having long thought passages has a disadvantage that they stop the time longer, so that the reader might have forgotten what the characters were talking about in the dialogue before these thoughts, and thus be confused when they get to the next dialogue quote. To remedy that, sometimes if I have such a long “interval” between two dialogue quotes, I would make sure the quote after this interval is clear enough to remind the reader what was being talked about previously.

Yet, on the other side of the coin, long thought passages can be good in creating such a long pause! Sometimes you just want to have the characters stop talking for a while, and get all quiet and internal instead, which is a kind of rest for the readers from all that chitchat and socializing. (Woah this sounds like a description of an introvert!) But dialogue really does tend to make time feel fast, and thoughts feel like they slow things down in a good way. Apart from giving the reader a nice period of respite, long passages of thoughts are also a welcome variation from the (usually) rapid back-and-forth exchange of dialogue. I recall that “rule” where you vary action, dialogue, and narration/ thoughts or something every two paragraphs? I don’t remember exactly, but basically I think the reader welcomes variation because variation is just nice, haha.

“, but if we use too many, our characters can seem constantly on the verge of a heart attack. (A pain grew in her chest and she couldn’t breathe, etc.)”

Ohoho I completely agree with this, though! I read a story where the guys ALWAYS felt their hearts were being knived/ cut (this sounds weird, but it’s a Chinese expression, haha) whenever the girls they loved suffered yet another punishment from the emotionally unstable emperor, lol! These “heart being knived” descriptions made it very melodramatic but that was okay because I interpreted this as comedy and something we weren’t supposed to take seriously anyway. But in general, yes, we see heart descriptions WAY too often in some stories…

I’m not sure how I find the right balance; I just read over it and FEEL whether the type and intensity of emotion conveyed in this passage MATCHES the type and intensity of emotion I intended to convey. So the typical example is when I have a lovey-dovey sweetly romantic scene. Yes, I know the hero and heroine are very happy (ecstatic!) in their mutual embrace/ kiss, but HOW exactly are they happy and how intense is their happiness at this moment? So I have to play around with the words, etc. until it feels right. But again, as you’ve already seen my support for naming emotions (haha), I play around mostly with word choice. I do sometimes play with how much of their thoughts I show, though. Or sometimes I just remove their thoughts from the page altogether, so the readers won’t get THAT bit of depth into it.

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Jami Gold September 30, 2014 at 9:48 am

Hi Serena,

Interesting point about Harry Potter, and I agree. I think I’ve mentioned before how children’s stories (chapter books, Middle Grade, and even some YA) might include more telling information simply because kids aren’t as good about picking out subtext.

Or to touch on your later example of comparing GRR Martin’s sentence-long internalized thoughts vs. Dostoyevsky’s paragraph-long internalized thoughts, there’s no overriding guideline of the right amount to include. It all depends on the genre, reader expectations, tone, mood, POV, character, etc.

If you’ve seen my post today, you know I agree completely that there’s no “one size fits all” advice that’s perfect for every story. Some stories–even outside the children’s category–fit better with told emotions, and as you alluded to, everything comes down to our target readership and their expectations. 🙂

Great point too about how body language can become cliche as well. (That’s just one of the many reasons I recommend the ET. 🙂 ) I wonder if the Chinese language affects those authors’ choices. I think you mentioned before how certain cliche phrases are necessary within Chinese language stories, and how turning a cliche would actually result in clunky writing. Do you think body language phrases fall into a similar category?

I’m with you on enjoying dialogue and internalizations for emotions! And the good news is that as long as we don’t overdo it (bringing the pacing to a halt, as you mentioned), those are great ways to share our characters’ emotions. In her critiques, Janice Hardy always wants writers to indicate “How does she feel about this?” 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Serena Yung September 30, 2014 at 1:04 pm

” I think you mentioned before how certain cliche phrases are necessary within Chinese language stories, and how turning a cliche would actually result in clunky writing. Do you think body language phrases fall into a similar category?”

Haha not exactly necessary, but using cliched phrases sounds more elegant than expressing it in your own words–unless you can express it as succinctly (e.g. in only 4 words!) as these cliched phrases, haha. We call most of these phrases Cheng Yu.

Eh…nah, for body language there are a few cliched phrases, but not that much; there are way more cliched phrases for emotions. For the online story I was talking about, it wasn’t using Cheng Yu, but just the writer’s own phrasing.

“everything comes down to our target readership and their expectations”

Yup!

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Jami Gold September 30, 2014 at 1:08 pm

Hi Serena,

Ah, how interesting! Thanks for the information! 🙂

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Julie Musil September 28, 2014 at 9:40 pm

Oh, I absolutely LOVE books that leave me an emotional wreck. The trick for me is to do the same in my own work. I struggle with it in early drafts, but get closer to the mark later on, once I’ve tuned up the story. Thanks, Jami!

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Jami Gold September 30, 2014 at 9:55 am

Hi Julie,

Interesting! And this is another one of those “reading is subjective” things, as I generally don’t care for uber-high angst. 😉 But that’s why we have to do what’s best for the story we’re trying to write. Different readers want different things, and that means it’s okay to write different things. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Alina K. Field October 1, 2014 at 2:12 pm

Love this post, Jami. I just started a bestseller spy book that my husband liked and recommended I read, and after a few pages, I thought–it’s so FLAT. Duh, I’m a romance writer and reader! This is a good reminder that there are readers out there who like other styles and genres!

And P.S. I sent up a prayer for your brother. Keep us posted on his progress.

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Jami Gold October 1, 2014 at 2:40 pm

Hi Alina,

LOL! Yep, there are many reasons reading is subjective. 🙂 Thanks for the comment and the prayers!

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