Erm, no. Not that kind of beat. Image:

Erm, no. Not that kind of beat.

Once again, my friends, I need your help.

I have been working on a non-fiction book that explains how to use beats to show emotion in your writing.

What are beats, you ask? They are short descriptions and actions that pepper a dialogue, indicating what a character thinks or does.

Give me a Beat

“Show, don’t tell,” everyone says.


Because of the way our brains are wired, the emotional resonance is much stronger if you don’t name the emotion you are trying to describe. As soon as you name an emotion, your readers go into thinking mode. And when we think about an emotion, we distance ourselves from the actual experience of feeling it.

So, the next question is, how? How can we show anger, fear, indifference, and the whole range of emotions that characterize the human experience?

Until a few years ago, the answer might have been simple: add an adverb. For example:

He fearfully stepped onto the ladder.

Simple. Unassuming. But, for today’s author, unacceptable. “Lazy writing,” your writing coach would say. And they would suggest, instead, you use a beat. The wunder-kid of today’s writing. So, you will now describe your character’s actions along the lines of:

He placed one uncertain foot on the ladder and raised his body. Will it hold? He closed his eyes for a second, expecting the worn step to give way. When it didn’t, he placed his second foot on the next step. His temples felt damp. He resisted the urge to wipe them, his fingers clutching instead the railing even harder. The ladder held. So far.

This is the power of beats: they create richer; immediate; deeper writing.

The book includes hundreds of examples that you can use for your inspiration, so that you, too, can harness this technique to show emotion in your writing.


Your Help

The book is almost ready, and at that stage when a cover is required. Once again, Alex Saskalides has undertaken its design. He just sent me a whole bunch of great-looking covers, and I need your help to choose the best one.

So, how about it? Feel like adding your 2 cents and helping out a decidedly undecided fellow author?

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