Dialogue Tip—Show Emotion Through Actions

We have all heard the writing rule show don’t tell. In the two examples written below, the first dialogue sentence tells the speaker’s emotion. The second example shows the emotion.

First example:

“I won’t do it,” he said angrily. 

Change to:

“I won’t do it,” he said, slamming his fist onto the table.

Second example:

“I can’t do that,” Sarah said nervously. 

Change to:

Sarah peeled the label off her beer bottle and tore the paper into small pieces.  “I can’t do that.”

In both cases the revised version shows the character’s emotions without the telling adverbs angrily or nervously. Go through your manuscript and look for ways you can show emotions through action. Your writing will be better.




  1. Marie
    Aug 17, 2012

    Thank you, Angie. Sometimes I get lazy and I needed a reminder to put the extra work into a piece to make it come alive for the reader.

    • affoster22
      Aug 17, 2012

      I know what you mean! This is basic stuff, but it’s always a good idea to get a reminder now and then. Thanks for reading my blog.

  2. Margaret Marty
    Sep 3, 2012

    This is great advice! Thank you, Angie.

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