The Approach

This week’s Human Observation Project is focusing on how the same thing, depending on how it’s presented, can warrant a different response. 

Have you ever been in a situation where someone comes up to you and starts off by saying, “You did this...”  Whoa, instantly you get defensive.  After all, they are essentially accusing you by the way they approached you, aren’t they?  Now, what if that same person had come up to you and said, “I’m not sure exactly what happened here, but I think…”  It’s a peaceful approach.  You would no doubt listen to more of what they had to say without the inclination to fight with them.  They’re not wanting to point blame; they’re simply bringing something to your attention.

How can we put “The Approach” to use in our writing?
By harnessing the power of dialogue, we can inflict emotion, and assign motive to our characters without the need to add a “tell” phrase.

For example:

“You’re the one who brought the subject up.”

Do you need to add a tag to this dialog, saying something like “she said, defensively”, or “she crossed her arms, closed to anymore discussion”?  Absolutely not, because it’s implied by the word choice that there’s conflict.  You don’t even need context to pick up on that.

What if in the same scene, the character said this instead:

“Why do we have always have to talk about this?  By the way, how’s your mother these days?”

Based on this we can tell the matter is a sensitive one to our character.  They want the subject changed, but unlike the first example, there’s no indication our character is angered by the conversation, they would just rather talk about anything else.  The subject matter strikes them emotionally on some level.

These are just two basic examples of how “The Approach” can be utilized in our writing.  What about you?  How have you used this aspect in your writing?  Or what is another example you can think of?


  1. This is something I've been trying to work on in my novels--paying close attention to how much "action" versus "telling" I'm doing. Some things really do speak for themselves!

  2. Carolyn-I just put your blog in my RSS feed. I love it. Your blogging ideas are great and very helpful. I am working on my first children's book. I don't have a blog yet, but hopefully by the end of the year...I am just trying to work up some courage :+)

  3. Welcome to my blog, Laura :) And thank you for commenting. It really can be a challenge to show, not tell, but can be accomplished in small ways. I think a lot of us have to watch this :)

    Lorrie, your kind words really made my day. Thank you. And as far as blogging, you may find as I have, the terrific support that comes from other writers, and you'll grow and be inspired, in ways you didn't know possible.

  4. I just found you, too via a blog trail from Query Shark. Hi!

    I'm also working on this type of editing, I view it as the mechanics of writing, which take time to fine tune. I try not to be too hard on myself, and not get too attached to any lines since sometimes they need to be deconstructed entirely in order to work.

  5. That's awesome Stephsco - welcome to my blog :)

    Oh, speaking of not getting attached to any you find sometimes the ones you love the most a beta reader will be "what are you trying to say here"? That's happened to me before. sigh.


Post a Comment

Thank you for taking the time to make a comment.

Popular posts from this blog

A Promotional Tool that Makes Sense

Make the time to Play #AuthorTip

12 Things You Need to Know for Self-Publishing Success