example of a bad posture

Speaking with Actions

This is a tip more for editing than writing, although if you keep it in mind while you write, I think it can be quite helpful. When you want to say something in the narrative, consider if there might be a way to say it with a character action.

For example, where the narrative might say:

Todd had never felt so ruthlessly devastated.

You might instead write:

Todd dropped down at his desk and sank his head into his hands. He sucked a slow breath through closed teeth.

Either way, Todd is having a bad day at the office. But in the second example, we can actually hear him having that bad day, we get his posture and his expression rolled up in those few lines. Instead of being a concept of a person, floating around somewhere in the imagined space of the office, now he’s at the desk, breathing hard, clearly reeling.

This is sort of a way to break down the timeless but opaque advice: show don’t tell. All writing is telling, it’s made up of words. Trying to peer over a page and spot where all the telling is is very hard. But looking at where you are describing feelings–and instead describing what those feelings manifest as–can be a good step towards making sure that your writing is “showing.”