Wordsmith Wednesday

Welcome to my new weekly feature: “Wordsmith Wednesday.”

My thoughts tend to meander so I’ve decided to bring a little more organization to my blog, both to stimulate interest and to keep myself on task by creating a weekly theme.

This week I’d like to consider ways of using sensory descriptions to express emotions. We’re told to “show, don’t tell,” but how many heart palpitations, sweaty palms or dilated pupils can the reader tolerate as an indication of fear? One device that has been effective for me has been to utilize a background occurence that externalizes inner feelings. Here’s an example from my first novel, “Winter is Past.”

Claire, our protagonist, faces the fear that she may lose her best friend to kidney cancer. She is also concerned that something could happen to Josh, her husband, who will undergo major surgery in order to give a kidney to Kathryn.

I could have written: “Claire was overcome with fear.” In fact, that’s probably the gist of what I wrote the first time around. Instead, I chose the following device:

“In a corner of the dimly lit room, a tiny spider worked diligently, spinning an intricate web. I knew how it must feel to fall victim to its hunt, to become tangled in its snare. As each delicate filament wrapped around its victim, I felt a sense of suffocation, of helplessness. Without a word, I picked up the glasses from the table and followed Kathryn up the stairs.”

Writing Exercise: Select a passage from your writing–fiction or creative non-fiction–that portrays emotion. Take a look at the setting and see if you can figure out an outside occurence that offers an alternate form of expression. Have fun–I’d love to see what you come up with!

One thought on “Wordsmith Wednesday

  1. I remembered this morning to tell you that when you have a weekly feature, if you call them all by the same name (Wordsmith Wednesday) the links won’t work. They can be titled like this: Wordsmith Wednesday, Sensory Description; or Wordsmith Wednesday, Plotting and so on. And I must say, you are a really good writing teacher!


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