Sometimes it takes years to get something through one’s head. Show. Don’t tell. It’s one of the first things we learned as writing students, right? It’s one of the first things we teach our students. I can spot it immediately when reading someone else’s work. But when I’m writing, I have to admit I just don’t see the world in terms of images and details. I experience it in sensations. And I process it in abstractions. This is probably what makes me a writer, my intense emotional experience of everything around me and my need to make sense of it intellectually. But it also makes me a bad writer. I get it.
But even when I try to put in details, I am disgusted. For embarrassment, I come up with blushed, then cross out and write, her cheeks flushed. They turned pink? Her face turned red? Her heart started thumping wildly? Ugh. Grimacing, I cross out all of this and safely return to, “She felt embarrassed.”
A few weeks ago, one of my friends suggested just going on the Internet and googling a word to see what effects it came up with, and steal. So nowadays, that is how I do my research. What does a drug addict look like? What are the symptoms of drug addiction? I come up with “dull grey skin.” Wallah! Nice. I am getting the hang of it. Today, I wanted to say that one of my characters was apoplectic. I like that word. It was one of my favorite words as a teenager, penciled in neatly in my book of words. But boldly, I get on the Internet. “What does someone look like when he is apoplectic?” I ask. It only comes back with synonyms, each more abstract than the other. “What are the symptoms of someone having a stroke?” I ask. I get a downturned mouth, loss of speech, and loss of arm motion. Nice. Steal.