Angry. Sad. Mad. Happy. Scared. Worried. These are emotional labels that beginning writers will often use to tell their reader what a character is feeling. Any character in any story might be afraid. What makes this scare unique? One sure way never to discover that is by labeling your character’s response as “afraid”.
Sure, these words form operable prose, but they lack meaning and they certainly lack creativity. One way we know they lack meaning is the great temptation to put modifiers on either side of them in order to pump them up – really mad, super scared, worried sick.
You don’t need extra words when you write strong, specific prose. Here’s an example.
Make a choice between the following two options.
1) I could tell from the way he was acting, he was really mad.
2) He grew quiet and stared at me as he stood. I could see a faint tremor in his fists as he spoke in a low, rattling growl.
You might get by with #1, but your reader is getting bored. You are telling them the emotion instead of showing it to them.
So what are the solutions?
Simply write the emotion without these words. Better yet, use dialogue to let us hear the emotion. Well written dialogue will allow your reader to accurately infer the emotion while at the same time giving them insight into the character feeling it. This is an elegant solution, and one that gives your reader what they came for. Tweaks such as this will increase the quality of your writing pronto, without a lot of heavy lifting.
He grew quiet and stared at me as he stood. I could see a faint tremor in his fists as he spoke in a low, rattling growl.
“You should have called before you came over here,” he said.
“You would have only given me one of your hundred excuses – given some lame reason why you weren’t going to see me.”
He took a step forward. “That’s your mistake. I guess you’ll find out in person why I would’ve told you to stay home.”