I’m going to tell you a happy story! Really happy. I’m so pleased with how things are going, and my happiness is palpable. Don’t you feel happy reading that? No? Hmmm, maybe it’s not so palpable after all…
You’ve heard the advice that you should show rather than tell. That’s not always true (see one of my previous posts for more info), but the advice is useful in some cases. Telling your reader about a mood like in the paragraph above usually won’t transfer it onto them. (Writing would be so much easier if it did!) It feels counterintuitive, but writing which doesn’t state how a character feels will often convey how they’re feeling more effectively.
Take the following passage, for example, where no mood is mentioned.
The door lunged open. I pressed against my morsel of carriage wall as the train leaked passengers, and I scanned the faces of the replacement crowd. No one familiar.
The seconds floundered along, chaining us to the platform. Still people pushed past me. I chewed my thumbnail until a jolt came at last. The sudden movement made me stumble like everyone else. Probably the only thing we had in common.
Buildings surrendered to fields as we left the city. Most were flat and featureless, but a lone tree stood in one. The bare branches, splayed about its twisted trunk, caught my eye. A large black bird circled nearby, watching the helpless wretch below. I drove my knuckles into my back, stretched, and wished for space to escape the window.
Which emotion(s) did you sense? I’d love to know, so send me an email or comment underneath!