Kelly Abell Books

Writing Tips for Writers

Writing Tip #34 - More on Showing vs. Telling

Posted on June 19, 2011 at 7:32 AM

As I've gone through the editing process with Jewels of Hera, I can assure you that a GOOD editor is more valuable than any precious gem.  Worth more than twice their weight in gold!  Always be willing to improve your craft and a great editor can help you do that.  They will enhance your voice!


I digress.  My topic in this entry is about Showing vs. Telling, another one of my weaknesses and a very easy trap to fall into when writing a lengthy novel.  It is SO SO boring to a reader.  I'm just going to deal with one word here that has turned into a crutch word for me, and for those of you with more experience in the craft, this may be old news, but for me it's been a true learning experience.


The word is...Felt!  This word sucks you right into the "telling" trap.  Allow me to share a few "out takes" from my recent editing experience.

My Sentence: She didn’t know if she felt relief or terror.

My Editor's Comment:  Describe what she is feeling - don't tell us

My Revision:  Relief flooded her. The door latch held firm, but eventually she'd have to face him.  There was no other way out of the room.  Sweat trickled down her back and dampened her palms.  Her heart raced. She had no other options.


My Sentence:  I got dizzy and felt sick

My Editor's Comment:  "Felt is telling.  Revise"

My Revision:  My world spun out of control.  The car rolled over and over, rattling my brain against my skull, and churning  my stomach.  I fought the nausea but lost. 


I think you get the idea.  No more "felt"  show us!

Until next time...


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Reply Frank Allan Rogers
10:27 AM on August 3, 2011 
Well done, Kelly. Thanks for "showing" us how to avoid passive traps like felt When you make us feel the scene's impact on the character, we know how the character felt.
Reply Rosalie Skinner
2:28 AM on September 4, 2011 
Totally agree with you Kelly. Felt, thought, knew, are all words I try to revise. I find they remove us from the POV of the character.
Good post. Simple but effective. Editors are wonderful assets. I love working with mine.