Do your characters blink so much during dramatic scenes that it might be easier to add in a subplot about chronic dry eye than rewrite the whole darn thing?*
Do they clench their jaws enough to give themselves migraines?
Do they swallow, grin, bite their lip, blush, or furrow their eyebrows excessively?
Do they express every emotion via breath?**
TV and movie lovers, beware!
(Ok, all other fiction writers can beware too, but especially you TV/movie folk.)
(Literal example of blinking overload.)
If your favorite dramatic scenes influence you too heavily on paper, you might write yourself into a common problem: over-describing facial reactions.
In many early drafts, I find myself weaving in way too many details during intense conversations. I picture the scene perfectly in my mind and want to transcribe it on paper so that readers would see what I see.
Here's the problem: I find myself transcribing it exactly. Every minor facial expression included.
But we're supposed to show, not tell, right? And when you watch these intense scenes on TV or in movies, the camera's all zoomed up in our heroine and hero's faces, so all the non-spoken stuff is communicated through those little movements.
(Like this made of awesome scene from the end of Ever After.)
In novels, though, "showing" all those little movements ends up slowing down the scene and making it all clunky and boring. You lose that intensity, that meaningfulness you're trying to convey. And you start "telling."
True "showing" is its own art form. It's all about giving your reader just enough vivid dialogue, exposition, and action to paint a picture --- but not a complete picture.
It's like this Degas painting:
(Witness the cultured example! My high school art teacher would be so proud.)
One of the most brilliant parts of reading novels is filling in the blanks yourself, connecting to it on a personal level. I don't need to be told every time a character bites her lip or rolls her eyes, because I should know her well enough that I could imagine it on my own. (Just like I shouldn't need to be told the tone of every line of dialogue.)
In conclusion? Beware of this sneaky little version of telling, not showing. Everything in moderation and all that good stuff. :) For me, most of this lesson was about trusting in my writing -- that it was strong enough to paint a picture for readers and evoke their emotions without resorting to over-description. Believe in what you can do!
Comment time! Anyone else guilty of noting every blink and breath? Any I forgot? Anyone suddenly in the mood to watch Ever After?
* Actually, eyes perform all sorts of acrobatics beyond blinking.
** The comment this refers to was from a Nathan Bransford post on general writerly tics -- overused phrases, verbs, punctuation, etc. It's semi-related to this, but definitely worthwhile to check out simply for editing purposes, and for a good chuckle on how all writers seem to have their characters turning everywhere and looking at everything. And we use "well" and "just" all the time!