Practice-W Exercise Archives
Exercise: Telling looks (Version 2)
These exercises were written
by IWW members
and administrators to provide structured practice opportunities for its
You are welcome to use them for practice as well. Please mention that
them at the Internet Writers Workshop
Prepared by: Margery Casares
Posted on: 21 Jan 2001
Reposted on: 15 Feb 2003
Reposted on: 15 Feb 2004
Reposted, revised on: 9 Jul 2006
Most beginning authors (sometimes even those who
have taken writing classes) tend to narrate their stories and/or put on
paper every single movement
known to man as their characters walk through the pages.
A lesson all writers must learn if they want others to read their work
is this: Writing is fifty percent author and fifty percent reader. If
an author leaves
nothing to the reader's imagination, the reader will quickly toss the
An author should use words that will not only be readily understandable
to a reader, but will convey exactly what the author wishes a reader to
"hear," "feel." A good author can catch a reader's attention so
thoroughly that the
reader feels she is actually experiencing the things she reads. This
skill is one that
separates the pro from the novice.
A world of description is available to writers through words. If not a
word of dialogue is spoken, could you, as a writer, describe the smile
of your characters?
Keep in mind, there is a smile that indicates pleasure: "She grabbed
her skirts and did a little dance, humming under her breath."
And a smile that indicates scorn: "We could not fail to notice his
quick grimace, as audible as the sting of his words had been."
And a smile that indicates uncertainty or embarrassment: "The child's
face flushed a bright red, and he cleared his throat a couple of times
dropping his head and hunching his shoulders."
A frown can denote displeasure, or it can denote that one is deep in
The secret is to describe the emotion as it affects the character and
not tell the reader "he smiled," or "she frowned."
In approximately 300 words, write a scene in which two characters
exchange "telling looks." (Smile, frown, or another facial expression.)
the 50/50 deal: describe enough to put the reader in the scene, but do
alienate your reader by telling too much.
Web site created by
Rhéal Nadeau and
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Modified by Gayle Surrette.