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Writing Physical Reactions

Let’s get physical. Shall we? When we write, we need to show readers our character's reactions to situations.

Notice the word show not feel the reactions. It often gets confused by beginning writers—okay sometimes those of us who’ve written many books still have that problem. My hand is in the air, so this post isn’t just for you but for me as well.

Let’s look at this photo.


Let’s name our character Caitlin.

We could say: Caitlin couldn’t believe she was swinging on the deck of a boat, preparing to jump into water over her head. She was terrified.

Readers will get that, everyone knows what it’s like to swing, and they know what it’s like to be scared, but what if we could make our readers feel what Caitlin is feeling?

We do that with writing physical reactions.

Some of the reactions she might be having are:
An adrenaline rush because she’s about to jump from a swing on a boat into a lake and she doesn’t swim well. That’s all great but what does an adrenaline rush feel like, look like?

Her heart is racing.

photo by Noah Silliman
Her mouth is dry.

Maybe she is shallow breathing, and that’s making her dizzy.

It’s sunset, maybe it was 110 degrees that day, and the chain swings are burning her hands, but she can’t quite let go.

Let’s throw in some more problems for her, she has to do this because she signed up to raise money for St. Jude’s Hospital because they helped her sister. She’s raised $10,000 dollars for this jump, and if she doesn’t do it, she’s letting everyone down. So now she’s also sick to her stomach.

If some of those reactions are added to our description of a girl swinging, you’ll bring her to life, and your readers will feel what she feels without writing Caitlin felt scared.

Original:
Caitlin couldn’t believe she was swinging on the deck of a boat, preparing to jump into water over her head. She was terrified.

New version:
The swing chains burned Caitlin’s hands. All she had to do was let go, and it would be over. Her stomach rolled like the swell from the boats in the lake. She swallowed or tried too but there was not any moisture in her mouth. Breathe Caitlin, she could almost hear her sister’s voice. That’s why she was here, if she could do chemo then Caitlin could jump. On three. She’d go on the third swing. One, two...

Pull out a piece of your writing and add some physical reactions. Do you like it? Does it pull you into the story more?




New Release!
 A Time To Dance

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