Get under the surface of your characters’ feelings with actions

Here's a quick editing tip in time for Valentine's Day – show actions to emphasise feelings.

‘Seemed to be’ and ‘felt like’ are two words that are often redundant or shortcuts in the place of describing what’d going on more deeply. Take this example:

She seemed to be ignoring me. I felt like I was dying inside.

You can cut it down to this:

She ignored me. I way dying inside.

The problem here is that we’re describing someone else’s internal thought processes – that of actively ignoring someone. So should we put ‘seemed’ back in or describe the evidence the narrator is using to make this assumption? Plus we’re only scratching the surface on how the protagonist feels. Maybe the best way would be to describe the actions and let the reader decide for themselves:

She walked straight past as if her eyes were fixed on a future without me. Turning to her friend, she tossed her head with horrific laughter at some joke. Whether or not the joke was on me, I presumed the display was for my benefit. I hid behind my folder and shrank an inch for every step she took away from me. I hoped that before she disappeared through the gate, she’d turn and give me the briefest glance but she didn’t. I stumbled away to lay on a sofa and, with any luck, die of heartbreak before tea.

About Matthew

Matt likes writing, fancy chairs and procrastination.