For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine? You can also click “Rant Worthy Topics” in my right navigation bar. Choose “Gold Mine Manuscript” to see all the lessons to date.
“Magellan walked back from the library slowly, feeling exhausted from studying all day.”
Sorry, Gellan. You’re not allowed to “feel exhausted”. I have totally failed you as a mother author. (Don’t you feel like their parents sometimes?) Anyway… .
According to this publisher, Feeling, Felt, and Feel are very telling words. They are right up there with “look” for setting off the “no-no” meter. Instead of using these words, we should be showing our readers how our characters feel instead. Give us actions that show us that he’s tired without telling us that he is.
“Magellan dragged his feet as he walked home from the library. He could barely keep his eyes open after studying all day.”
Okay, they are forgiven. Point taken. The second one is better. The word count does suffer a little in this example, but I could probably have done better if I gave it a little more thought. (They might even consider “barely keep his eyes open” as tell. too. I could have probably done better there, as well.)
Another bad telly sentence that I would have been guilty of before seeing the Gold Mine Manuscript was something like:
“Magellan was exhausted. He dragged his feet all the way home”
There is no reason to say “Magellan was exhausted” and SHOW that he is exhausted right afterwards. Just delete that first part, and stick with the showing part and it will sound much better.
This tip, will definitely help make your manuscript stand out from the others. I still have to stop myself from doing this. For some reason, I naturally “tell” First, and then I show. I don’t know why. I’m starting to catch myself, but sometimes it’s tough.
Hope this one helps.
If you don’t get it, please drop me a line, and I will discuss in more depth. I think this is a really good point that a lot of people seem to be stumbling with (me included). I saw it a lot critiquing a recent 250 word contest. Set yourself apart by trying to avoid it.