At the end of my last post about “show don’t tell”, I mentioned that the maxim is a useful “rule” when writing emotion. So in this post, I want to highlight some ways that you (or your students) can show emotion in your writing.
"Show don't tell" is one of those writing maxims that gets thrown around with little explanation. Scribophile Academy has a good article on it here. It's true that "telling" the entire way through your story is uninteresting and doesn't immerse the reader in your story. On the flip-side, "showing" every. single. thing. is very time consuming and not always that effective - especially if you've got a limited word count to work in.
Back in primary school, I learnt this about narrative writing: There's an orientation (setting the scene), a complication and a resolution (where the complication is solved). Sound familiar?
Then, in high school, I learnt the same thing, before moving on to maxims like "show, don't tell" (more on that later) and techniques like dialogue and metaphor. I learnt how to write good sentences, maybe even good paragraphs.
The thing that was missing - and it's an absolutely crucial thing - was how to create a plot. We moved straight from structure to technique, without much consideration of content. Students are learning how to write a story, sure. Are they learning how to write an interesting story?
This post was prompted by a discussion about the compulsory creative writing part of the HSC exam and how we can get kids to practise writing, even when it's not an area of interest or strength for them.
Writers don't all do the same thing. I've had other writers recommend creative writing books to me that I hated, and over on Scribophile the "plotter vs pantser" debate is second only to the "self-publish vs traditionally publish" one. It's important to note that while there might be writing or editing "rules", there are no rules for the creative process. So with that in mind, I'm including exercises that encourage whatever existing creativity is there and teach skills, rather than a beginning-to-end process.