Saying what you need to say in a concise way is hard, especially when you’re writing. Trust in the story is absolutely essential. So, how do we say what we need to say?

There are different ways to look at statements, and this list will tell you what to call them.

  • Adage: aphorism with credibility due to language
  • Aphorism: concise definition
  • Apothegm: edgy, cynical aphorism
  • Bromide: insincere phrase or platitude, implying a lack of originality
  • Cliché: commonplace, trite saying
  • Epigram: a poetic form of a comment on a person/idea/occurrence
  • Epithet: descriptive word or phrase that becomes popular
  • Gnome: compact instruction
  • Idiom: an expression whose meaning can’t be denied by hearing it
  • Mantra: religious or mystical syllable or poetic phrase
  • Maxim: wise principle or rule
  • Motto: concise expression of motivation
  • Platitude: flat, insipid, trite, weak remark
  • Proverb: practical truth or wisdom
  • Quip: witty or funny observation
  • Saw: commonplace, longstanding, trite
  • Witticism: smart, notable for form or style than content

Your characters want to find ways to summarize what they’re thinking, even if you don’t write it out.

You – as the writer – need to say what you need to say to someone who can’t hear you. You’re communicating from afar, to your reader, to your character, to anyone who interacts with your work.

Think about the following paragraphs as a prompt:

He was recently separated from his wife. The divorce was very hard on him and he couldn’t emotionally handle it. He finally realized that he needed help, so he reached out to his friends and family members. He finally felt better after telling them what was bothering him. He sounded relieved when he finally told them how he really felt.

Imagine his family and friends using a saying from above to help him come to terms with his feelings. Maybe in their discussions, they said something that he took away that helped with his healing.

What were those words?

They don’t have to end up in your manuscript but having it as part of your “off-screen” character development can be a powerful exercise.

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If you’re new to writing or you’re on a journey to soak up whatever knowledge you can find, you may be wondering why writers decide to do what they do. Write down a handful of scenes on notecards, and shuffle them around to suit whatever thought process you’re trying to work out.

It’s a useful tool so that writers have an idea of what their story is about, and scenes help them to organize and structure that story. So, why write them at all? Because scenes are a way for writers to illustrate what the story is all about.

So let’s talk more about the nuances of the scene that you’re trying to set for the reader. It doesn’t matter if you’re a novelist, short story author, flash fiction, creative nonfiction, or poet. The tips I share with you are merely to get you to think.

Let’s think about this scenario. It can be terribly frustrating to read a character that you can’t get emotionally invested in. And aggravating to read about someone that you don’t care about it. We’ve all seen it happen.

You’re probably wondering what is it about them that makes them so unlikeable.

Maybe it was a deliberate craft choice. Maybe the author wanted you to read them that way.

Or maybe the atmosphere around the character is decidedly unrelatable and you can’t get on board. That happens frequently to me as a reader and a writer.

The next question is: how do you avoid it?

I spoke at length about body language last week. But in what ways can body language suit the story that you’re trying to tell?

Your character could:

Show, Don’t Tell Tip Number One

Show Interest

Lean in, ask questions, strong eye contact, smile, nod, speak in short bursts, add to the conversation, open body posture, light physical touches

Photo by Timothy Dykes on Unsplash
Show, Don’t Tell Tip Number Two

Disinterest

Lean back, angle away, crossed arms, wandering gaze, easily distracted, poor eye contact, rarely speaking, shrugging

Photo by Jen Theodore on Unsplash
Show, Don’t Tell Tip Number Three

Nerves

Jittery, jerky, fiddling with wristwatch, touching things, broken eye contact, swallowing, looking down, looking away, touching throat, rubbing neck, hesitating, speech trailing off, non-committed

Photo by Christopher Campbell on Unsplash
Show, Don’t Tell Tip Number Four

Frustration & Anger

Tight voice, low tone, directly to the point, short sentences, facial and muscular tension, curled hands, strong grip, thrust-out chest, intense stare, unblinking, rigid neck

Photo by Julien L on Unsplash
Photo by Julien L on Unsplash
Show, Don’t Tell Tip Number Five

Subterfuge

Darting eye contact, flashing smile, talking too fast, always wanting to change the topic, misdirection, delayed reactions, steering the conversation, cutting people off, defensiveness, increased personal distance, blocking, closed body posture

Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash

You’ll notice how many of these categories overlap. There’s a reason for that, and it’s because the art of showing emotion on the page is hard to do. It’s up to you as the writer to decide how you want to portray that.

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Most people write to express their feelings or to entertain their readers. However, some write to make the world a more peaceful place.

The weather in Oakland keeps changing. It's no longer hot in the morning, or cold in the evening. It's not raining, it's not humid. It's not windy. It's not sunny. It's not foggy. It's hazy. It's not hazy. It's a constant state of change.

This article is an ode to sadness. To the kind of sadness that builds up, nears you, takes you over, and has you weeping in the corner. It’s the kind of sadness that you feel after you’ve read your favorite book or when you think back to your first love. It reminds you to be grateful for the things you have. It’s the type of sadness that could set you free.

First, think about your current work-in-progress. Do any of the words from the list apply to a character? Can you take a word from the list and incorporate it into the character’s development on the page?

I need to emphasize that you should always keep your writing straightforward no matter the platform you use to write. If you can keep your writing clear and make it flow well, the editor’s job will be more accessible, and your story will be better. You will remove unnecessary prepositions and articles and use correct punctuation and correct grammar. Keep your writing concise and focus on your writing’s message.

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Today, we’re going to talk about motivation. Motivation is what keeps you going. Motivation is what keeps you going in the face of adversity. And motivation is what keeps your villains going, too. Motivation can be a very powerful thing.

There are lots of reasons the villains in our stories do the things they do. Sometimes they’re motivated by greed, sometimes it’s vengeance, sometimes it’s simply power. And sometimes, the reasons are complex. It’s hard to say what causes the villain to join the side of evil, but one thing is for certain – they don’t do it out of financial need.

You may have seen this list in the past, and I provide it here alphabetized for your use.

It’s best to keep in mind that a villain isn’t a villain just because they have a different worldview than the hero. It’s because the villain is willing to use violence, intimidation, and destruction to achieve their goals — and the hero is willing to stop them.

In summary, the villains in our stories should be complex and compelling characters. Consider playing around with them being torn between their own internal conflicts, and the thrill of an evil act. There’s a reason why they do the terrible things that they do.

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As someone whose job is to write things, it may seem odd that I’m offering this list. However, I’m not the type of person who looks for the negative in everything. It always seems to find me, though.

When you first start out, you have to carefully consider your goals with the story. What are you trying to say? Should you be aiming for a happy ending, or does your character simply exist to have a good time and there’s no moral to the story? You have to be practical and realistic as the author in charge of their world.

You have to know that there will be ups and downs and to keep readers on your side, your character should suffer setbacks and disappointments. But, if you have a generous heart, enjoy frolicking in their world, and don’t have a completely unrealistic ending, then why are you telling this story right now?

Being upbeat always brings out a specific type of voice in us as writers. But what if you wanted a fresh way to look at the word itself? That’s what this list is all about.

Sometimes, vivacious isn’t the way to look at a character’s motivations. It would be best if you always pushed yourself to see it from their point of view, which might not necessarily be yours.

I suppose you could make an argument that you have to be positive to write a positive character. I’m sure that’s a common practice among some writers. However, I feel that could have a detrimental effect on the quality of content they produce and is counterproductive in terms of getting the words on the page.

I’m not of the school that you need to be in love to write about love.

What do you think?

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As a writer, I spend a lot of time describing things, and I’m always looking for new and exciting ways to do it. Through my research and experimentation, I have found that narrating sounds can be a powerful tool to describe a scene or set the tone of a work.

Narrating sounds is the easiest way to improve the vividness of your descriptions. I feel it adds a lot of subtle richness to your writing. But, of course, you should always use words that sound natural in the world of your story.

Writing about sounds can be easy or difficult depending on how you approach it. I hope that the prompts I gave here will help you write more vivid stories with sounds that come alive.

If you still have a morning commute, I find that being alone in your thoughts while going through the motions is an educational opportunity to work on your novel, poem, or screenplay by making you more observant. There are myriad sounds that you can work with and name on your own. Who knows, you might even come up with a word that’s not on this list.

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You don’t want to reveal too much about your character in the first chapter. However, I am of the firm belief that if you write an excellent first chapter, the rest of the story will fall into place. Then, when you get into chapter two, you can delve into a character’s background and give little hints to the reader of what they are like in the story’s context.

Even something as simple as describing their voice can set the perfect scene in the mind’s eye of a reader.

It isn’t easy to describe a voice in a story without sounding cliché or overdramatic. So, I thought I would make a list of 41 possible words to describe a voice.

  1. adenoidal
  2. appealing
  3. breathing
  4. brittle
  5. croaky
  6. dead
  7. disembodied
  8. flat
  9. fruity
  10. grating
  11. gravelly
  12. gruff
  13. guttural
  14. high-pitched
  15. hoarse
  16. honeyed
  17. husky
  18. low
  19. matter-of-fact
  20. monotonous
  21. nasal
  22. orotund
  23. penetrating
  24. plummy
  25. quietly
  26. raucous
  27. ringing
  28. shrill
  29. silvery
  30. singsong
  31. small
  32. smoky
  33. strangled
  34. strident
  35. taut
  36. thin
  37. throaty
  38. tight
  39. tremulous
  40. wheezy
  41. wobbly

Stories are made unique by the voices of their authors. The way you tell a story, the words you use, the cadence, the inflection all contribute to the story. Think about the voices of the people in the story as the author. How do they sound? How do they speak? Do you want them to sound like you or someone you know? How do you want them to talk in the tone of the story?

In summary, I found these phrases exciting and will be using some of them in my works. Imagine using “honeyed” instead of “ingratiating.” For example:

“The sound of his honeyed voice made her skin crawl.”

This is the kind of thing that makes for good reading.

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There is a lot of advice out there to help writers improve their craft and become better writers. Some of this advice is good, some tips are wonderful, and some are downright awful. The Artist’s Way is a tool, not a system; it’s a book to help you find what works best for you. This course provides a solid foundation to get you started.

When you get the book, one of the first things you read is a promise that you make to yourself.

I’m providing them here for you as a checklist. It’s something that’s helped me over the years, and I feel confident it’ll help you too.

  1. Creativity is the natural order of life. Life is energy; pure creative energy.
  2. There is an underlying, in-dwelling creative force infusing all of life – including ourselves.
  3. When we open ourselves to our creativity, we open ourselves to the creator’s creativity within us and our lives.
  4. We are ourselves, creations. And we, in turn, are meant to continue creativity by being creative ourselves.
  5. Creativity is god’s gift to us. Using our creativity is our gift back to God.
  6. The refusal to be creative itself will and is counter to our true nature.
  7. When we open ourselves to exploring our creativity, we open ourselves to God: good, orderly direction.
  8. As we open our creative channel to the creator, many gentle but powerful changes are to be expected.
  9. It is safe to open ourselves up to greater and greater creativity.
  10. Our creative dreams and yearning come from a divine source. As we move towards our dreams, we move towards our divinity.

“The Artist’s Way” is a guided experience to help you understand your creative process, learn to work through your fears, and develop the qualities of a successful artist. It is also a multi-level course that will give you practical tools to improve every area of your life.

In conclusion, it doesn’t matter what the book says; the important thing is to do it. The book itself is not the answer, but it can be a powerful tool if it gets you to make the introspective journey inward. It is not a book for everyone, but it is a book that can help everyone.

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