Thursday, October 24, 2013

Characters' Feelings . . . Let 'em show!

Rebekah M. presented an excellent lesson on creating characters. Now, I (Mrs. M) am going to take it one step further. Once you create the characters of your choice, it's time to make them act like real people. Here's a little lesson on how to do that. 

What makes a character (or a person, for that matter) seem real? It’s when he or she acts like a real person, showing real feelings, likes, and dislikes. You read in the Character Sketch post how to create believable characters you can use to write stories. Once you have given your characters personalities, how do you show the reader your character’s personality? That is the $1,000 question!

Readers want to read about real characters doing exciting and interesting things with a purpose. They want to see your characters laugh and cry, become angry or hurt. They want to see your characters’ feelings!

HAPPY      SAD      ANGRY      HURT      SHOCKED      EMBARRASSED

Do you ever experience any of the feelings above? I’d say that’s a . . . yes! Everybody has feelings, and your characters must have them as well. If you were creating a video for YouTube, it would be easy for viewers to see what your characters are feeling. They can see and hear everything. However, authors are a bit limited. Authors have to show everything with words alone. Most books don’t even have pictures! 

Show, Don’t Tell!

This is a writer’s favorite phrase. Memorize it. Never forget it! One way to give your readers a great experience is by making sure you always SHOW what your characters are feeling rather than simply TELLING your readers what the characters are feeling. Here is an example of a paragraph that only tells. It is boring.

Sally was tired. She went to her room to get ready for bed. The room was dark, so she wasn't prepared when a shadow jumped out at her. She was scared, so she cried. Her brother said, "Aw, Sally. It's just me."

Hint: notice the passive "was" words. That is a hint you might be "telling" the reader something.

Here is an example of the author showing the reader how Sally feels:

Sally rubbed her eyes and yawned. She shuffled up the stairs to her room, dragging one foot after the other. When she opened the door, a dark shadow leaped out at her. Sally shrieked and jumped back. Her eyes grew wide, and her hands shook. Then she burst into tears. "Aw, Sally," her brother said. "It's just me."

Scared!
Instead of writing “Sally was tired” I wrote, “Sally rubbed her eyes and yawned.” Can’t you just see her doing that? I put a picture of Sally’s sleepiness in your head. When you read those words, you knew she was tired, even though I never mentioned the word “tired.” 

I changed the sentence that said, “She was scared,” to “Sally shrieked and jumped back. Her eyes grew wide and her hands shook.” I created another picture in your mind . . . using WORDS. You figured out Sally was indeed scared by the picture I made with my words. I did not have to use the word feeling word "scared." When you use a feeling word like "scared," that is TELLING.

Learning how to show what your character is feeling rather than telling the reader how your character feels is one of the most important skills you can learn as a young (or old) author. 

Below is a handy "save as" chart. You may right-click on it, choose "save as," put it on your computer, and print it out if you want. It has some handy words you can use to SHOW a character's feelings.

YOUR MISSION: For fun, choose a character and name him or her. Choose some words from the charts below and create a short scene showing your character expressing a feeling. Post in a comment below and see if we can guess which feeling you are showing with your word picture. Don't tell us!

Example:
Telling sentence: Paul was very angry when he saw his room. 

Showing sentence:  Paul's face turned dark red when he opened the door to his room. He clenched his fists, stomped across the floor, and yelled, "How many times have I told you to stay out of here?"
 

Here are other examples, from students who took my writing course years ago when it was on a homeschool blog. Can you guess the feelings?

1. Lucy Tersil strutted up to Matt and declared, "Your sister will never become a young lady."  Matt’s whole body stiffened and his throat grew tight. His eyes flashed as he looked her straight in the eyes.  ~Alyssa
  
1. Wringing her hands, Sarah walked up to the stage. She couldn't get up in front of all those people! She bit her lip, shuffling her feet so it would take a long time to get there. Her stomach felt like it had butterflies flying all around inside. Her heart pounded so hard it felt like it would jump out. She swallowed hard, bit her lip, stumbled up the stairs, and then clenched her fists and pretended to be brave. All the people were looking right at her! She took a deep breath, tried to start her speech, and then she fainted!  ~Amy

3. Jennie jumped merrily over the log. When she reached the other side she saw a sight that froze her blood. Her eyes flew wide open and she began to shake. Three feet away from her a rattlesnake lay hissing, coiling for a strike. ~Lulu




   photo MrsM_zpsa9f216b8.png

55 comments:

  1. Mrs. M, this is an excellent way of explaining the differences between showing and telling. I remember how frustrated I would get when someone would say, "Show it don't tell it," but they never explained what the difference was in a way I could understand.

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  2. I'm so glad you found it helpful! I love going to writing conventions because even if I am already an author, I always learn a little something new to tuck away for my writing!

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  3. Awesome! I love all the "lets write" posts!

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    1. I agree with you Audrey! They are extremely helpful and a lot of fun too!

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  4. Thank you so much, these will really help me!
    ~Cowgirl

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  5. Cool!!!!
    This very helpful!!

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  6. Thanks!! I tried it out. What do you think?

    Caroline’s blood boiled as she heard the next string of insults. She clenched her fists tightly, No one was going to talk about her family like that, eyes blazing she whirled around the corner straight into the sneering face of Miriam Webster.



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    1. I like it Anne... nice names.

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    2. Good job Anne!
      I can tell Caroline is absolutely furious! :D

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    3. Yes, my guess is "anger, fury, etc."
      GREAT job showing it. And you didn't once use the word "mad" or "angry" or "fury." Way to go!

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    4. Ohhhhh!! I like it
      Anna

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    5. Good job Anne! :)
      sounds like a good story to me... ;)

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  7. Thanks for the tips Mrs. M!!!
    Who is the picture of the scared little girl???
    ~Leah

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  8. yours is good Anne! :)
    here is one I just wrote up, what do you all think?

    As Emily Bradshaw silently crept up the dark staircase, she heard a loud thumping sound coming from somewhere very near. Eyes wide, she whirled around and peered into the vast darkness. She was then relieved, realizing that it was her own heartbeat she had heard. Turning back around, she started her quest once more, nervously taking each step with caution.

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    1. She is nervous . . . bordering on being scared, I'd say. Nice job!

      Hint for the future:
      "relieved" is a feeling word. You could say, "She let out a breath and relaxed when she realized it was her own heartbeat she had heard."
      Then you would not have to use the "relieved" word

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    2. I like your's very much to
      Anna

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    3. oh, thanks for the tip! :)
      thanks Anna! :)

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    4. Here, I fixed it up a little. Is it better? :)

      As Emily Bradshaw silently crept up the dark staircase, she heard a loud thumping sound coming from somewhere very near. Eyes wide, she whirled around and peered into the vast darkness. She sighed a breath of relief when she realized that it was her own heartbeat she had heard. Turning back around, she laid a shaky hand on the railing, and started her quest once more, nervously taking each step with caution.

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    5. Nice! That's great that you read the hints and revised to make it even better. :-)

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  9. I've been working on some more Character Sketches.
    (oh, and these characters aren't for a Fan Story) I've just made them up for a fun story. :)
    (these boys are friends of Liz and Randy)
    are these good Miss Rebekah M.?

    Benjamin Isaac Watts:
    Ben is an outgoing lad of 12. He is always smiling, and talks with a lovely English accent. He is very outgoing, friendly, and cheerful. He also is very fond of history, and math. He has a full head of shiny strawberry-blond hair, and lovely light blue eyes. He tries to follow his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ with all his heart and soul. He also lives next door to his best friend Jay Trestain. His biggest problem though, is that he tends to be a bit prideful about his ability to learn quickly.

    Jason Clarence Trestain:
    Jay is everyone’s “pet”. With his chubby cheeks and sweet smile, he can easily get anyone to do his innocent wishes. He has bright red, curly hair, and lots of freckles, and his eyes are a deep blue. He is a kind and generous sort of fellow, and tries to be good. Of course, that is quite a trial for an 11 year old boy.
    When he isn’t out playing with his friends on a lazy summer day, he would probably be outside playing in the extensive woods behind his house.
    He likes to hang out his friends Liz, Randy and Ben. And with them, he has many exciting adventures. His best friend though, is Ben Watts.
    His favorite book is The Bible. And he reads it faithfully every day.
    His downfall though, is that he is somewhat spoiled.

    ~
    thanks for helping us with the Character Sketches Miss Rebekah M., it is fun making up "people"!

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    1. I enjoyed these characters, Megs. However, in the first sketch you started every sentence in the paragraph with the subject and 6 of them were "He." :) Try to vary how you start your sentences or you are going to lose your reader and it starts to sound boring. :P The second one was much better.
      They sound like fun boys and I'm sure will add lots of life to your story!

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    2. I have a lesson for that, too! LOL
      It's called "Variety in your sentences" and is great reminder to help avoid what Rebekah noted in your sketch. Best of all, it's usually an easy fix. :-)

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    3. opps! :P
      thanks for your advice!! :)

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    4. does this one sound better? :)

      Benjamin Isaac Watts:
      Ben is an outgoing lad of 12, is always smiling, and talks with a lovely English accent. He is very outgoing, friendly, cheerful, and also very fond of history and math. And he has a full head of shiny strawberry-blond hair, and lovely light blue eyes. Little Ben tries to follow his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ with all his heart and soul. His best friend Jay Trestain lives next door to him. His biggest problem though, is that he tends to be a bit prideful about his ability to learn quickly.

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    5. That is better. :) Sometimes you just have to rearrange your sentence and start it with something other than a subject. I enjoy "playing around" with sentences sometimes and starting them in different ways.

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  10. Do you guys like Lina or evelina cuz Lina is sorter and I like it better and ever budey calls me it
    Hay Andi haven't you gone on a advencher lately????
    Evelina

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    1. Lina is good! I like it. :)

      Mrs. M, I've narrowed my Contest Story down to 3,524 words, and it still sounds good! :D
      thanks for the advise. :)

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    2. I knew you could do it! There are always sneaky extra words lurking about a story that can be deleted. Good job! I'm proud of you!

      And I loved your character sketches too!

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  11. Gail's eye's flashed. She knotted her fist's at her side and stomped her foot.
    How dare Johnny say such a thing to Andi. she let her fist fly and it landed with a sickning punch in the pit of Johnny's stomach. Johhny was knocked to the ground but was back up in an instant. Andi gasped as she looked into his furious eyes. "Oh,no, Gail! Watch out!" she yelled.

    Ok, I just tried it. What do y'all think?

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    1. I think it is grand.
      Gail is ANGRY! That's my guess.

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    2. Wow, that is good Jesseca Dawn! :)
      sounds like a good story.... ;)

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    3. Thanks!
      I'm planning on making it into a fan story. it will have some new characters in it (the ones I wrote my character sketch on) thus Gail and Andi. :)

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  12. Ho els thanks I should do Lina???
    Evelina(Lina)
    If you guys thank so;-)

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  13. Here's a quick scene I made up:
    Andi threw back her head with an unladylike snort. She marched past the offender without a backwards glance. Cory felt crushed, and tried to make up for it.
    "I didn't mean to, honest!" he pleaded, his eyes begging for her approval. Andi merely lifted her face higher into the air.
    "You cheated Richard Blake, and I will NEVER forgive you."

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    1. Great scene. Great showing. I think Andi is showing the feeling of somehow being betrayed. Am I right?

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    2. And I agree with Jesseca. I sense a new fan story coming on . . . After the one starting tomorrow, of course!

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    3. Yes! She is feeling betrayed, Cory dropped a snake in front of Taffy while they were racing as a joke, but it made Taffy bolt and Andi lost the race. She was also supposed to be showing indignation as well.

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    4. "Indignation." Excellent feeling word. You can add it to the Feelings chart! :-)

      Oh! Can't wait to read that story!

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    5. I may make it into a fan story...

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  14. Oh, I love it! You must write a story about what happened!!!!

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  15. Mrs. Marlow I have a few questions. What would the temperature be like in Fresno around Christmas time? Would Andi have had a Christmas break?

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    1. Raining and chilly, but not freezing. Probably a lot of Tule fog (thick fog that blankets the Valley so much that nowadays the kids get "fog" days instead of other places that get "snow" days. The busses can't even run!)

      Probably in the 40s and 50s, with many sunny days too.

      Yes, they got a long holiday break for Christmas.

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  16. Thanks! That really helps with my story. My sister said that I was only just telling and not showing. She then tried to explain it to me but I didn't get it. And then I saw this masterpiece!!! It helped out a lot.

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    1. I'm so glad. SHOWING makes the story so much more interesting than simply TELLING. There are all kinds of jewels sprinkled around this blog. I hope you are able to find them all. I hope to put up other writing lessons so your stories can be the very best they can be! I SO wish I had known some of these things when I was a teen writer! Thanks for sharing.

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  17. Does Andi's ranch have fences around it?

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    1. There are definitely fenced areas, like paddocks near the yard for the yearling horses or for special situations. There are a number of corrals and pens, each with its own purpose. There are even irrigated pastures that are fenced, like say for the mares and their new foals.

      However, most of the thousands of acres are "open range," and not fenced at all. Other ranchers cattle mix with Circle C cattle in these vast areas. That is why cattle and horses need brands, so the owners can separate them when it comes to roundup time. The Carters own thousands of acres and thousands more are "open" to all.

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  18. I wonder if I do this in my story? :)

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Let Andi know what you think!