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Emoting vs Describing

James Weil
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Joined: 10 years ago
Posts: 8
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There is an enormous difference between describing what a character is feeling and showing how the character reacts to what he or she is feeling. This is called emoting. Let me give you a couple examples of a woman who was dumped by her fiancé a week before her wedding date:

Example 1 - Describing

Elizabeth felt completely numb as she walked into the bathroom and looked in the mirror. She wondered what went wrong and was still in denial that she had lost the man she loved. As the tears welled up in her eyes, she wondered how she was going to tell all her wedding guests that there would be no wedding.

As the pain began to sink in, she collapsed on the bathroom floor, realizing nothing would be the same any more. And then the anger started to sink in, and she hated Robert with every ounce of her being.

Example 2 - Emoting

Elizabeth walked into the bathroom with her arms hung loosely at her sides. Her eyes were red and slightly glazed over, not focused on anything particular. She bumped against the door jam, nearly falling over, not really aware of what she was doing. She looked in the bathroom mirror, smoothed back her jet-black hair, which had fallen over her face in loose strands. She wondered what went wrong, and why her fiancé would dump her a week before her wedding date.

She shook her head, and pulled at her hair, wondering what she was going to tell all her wedding guests. Her shoulders began to shake, and when the tears flowed down her cheeks, she bit her bottom lip and her hands trembled. Suddenly, her face screwed up in rage, and she picked up a bottle of perfume from the counter top and smashed it on the floor. “Fuck him!” she screamed. Then she sat on the toilet seat, put her head in her hands, and broke into heaving sobs.

Now, these two samples may not be my best writing, but they do make it very clear that emoting what your character is feeling makes it much more powerful than describing what your character is feeling. It also enables you to flesh out your character to a much greater degree.

It’s your character, and she will reveal herself to you much faster if you emote rather than describe.

Love to all!