Hi, welcome to Write Better Now, a podcast of quick, weekly writing tips meant to help you become a better writer. We’re your hosts with NYT bestselling author Carrie Jones and copyeditor extraordinaire Shaun Farrar. Thank you for joining us.
One of the big things that Carrie sees in stories a lot is nodding.
Here’s what it looks like:
Shaun nodded. “I agree that’s a lot nodding.”
Carrie nodded in affirmation. “Yes. There really is.”
For a moment they sat there and then Shaun smiled. “You want to get out of this excerpt and do the podcast, baby?”
“Yes.” Carrie nodded. “I do.”
Why is this bad? Well, for a couple of reasons:
- It’s the same action over and over.
- That same action is really just repeating what the dialogue is doing. The dialogue is already telling the reader that the character is agreeing.
The cool thing is that whenever us writers revise our work, we can go back in and specifically look for these nods and recognize them for what they are: placeholders.
That’s right. Every single time you see a nod, I want you to ask yourself:
- Does that nod really need to be there?
- What can I replace that nod with. A more telling physical action that involves the whole body? The character interacting with their physical setting? Just blank space?
You want to just go a little deeper into visualizing that scene, feeling and embodying that character’s body, so that you can bring the reader into the scene, too.
If you think about our little excerpt from earlier, you’ll notice there’s no setting. We have no clue about where Carrie and Shaun are, but also we have no clue about what their whole bodies are doing, what they look like, anything.
Here, let’s try it again:
Shaun stretched his long legs in front of him, knocking his shin against the iron support of the office desk, and put his arms behind his head. “I agree that’s a lot nodding.”
Carrie curled her legs under her and scooted her small velvet chair a little closer to him. “Yes. There really is.”
For a moment they sat there and then Shaun tapped his finger against the computer screen, sniffed in the eggy smell of dog farts and said, “You want to get out of this excerpt and do the podcast, baby?”
“Yes.” Carrie gagged, covering her mouth with her hand, cringing. Tears came to her eyes. “I do.”
Our bodies show people how we feel. How we stand, hold our head, purse our lips, move our hands, plant our feet, slump our shoulders, wiggle an eyebrow all communicate our emotional condition.
As writers, we have to key into those body movements, the expressions, so that we can have a full range of possibilities to help our readers be inside our characters’ worlds. That world is about a lot more than nodding, shrugging, and shaking heads.
Hey, thanks for listening to Write Better Now.
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