Tuesday, February 3, 2015

SHOW Some Emotion...

...through dialogue, action, beats, and light touches of internal monologue.

A possible reader flipping through your book should be able to discern the feelings of characters in any given scene, even without knowing who they are and the nature of the scene.

How? I'll show you from six random passages in Visage.

John’s car was parked outside the house with its engine running. Melissa slid inside, glared at Cornell, and said, “You better have a good explanation for this.”

Cornell pulled away from the curb. “I already gave you one."

“You haven’t given me a thing. Where are we going?”


“In the middle of the night? Let me out!”

“Don’t you want to see John? He said you like to watch.”

His statement took her breath away. “We’re really going to see John?”


“Is he okay?"

“You be the judge of it.”

“John asked for me?”

“Sort of.”

("Visage," Chapter 30: Last Rights)

"How could you?” Melissa whispered. “Oh, John, how could you?”

“Melissa, he would have died.”

“He did die!”

“But it’s a happy death. He’s as ruthless as he always deluded himself to be.”

Melissa bolted up right. “Promise me you won’t do it again!”

“Melissa, I can’t.…”

“Promise it! No, swear it John! You can take all the blood you need from me, once a day, ten times a day, if that’s what it takes to keep you human. But no more animals, no more ruining innocent lives, no more turning people into vampires, no more....”

She thought about Derek, but fresh, feverish tears stopped up her flow of words. John once again pushed her head onto his chest.

“All right, Melissa,” John said in a weary voice, “I promise. No blood except yours. Unless..."

John’s arm relaxed, and Melissa felt its grip on her loosen.

“Unless what?”

“Unless nothing. Let’s get some sleep. I can’t think anymore.”

("Visage," Chapter 23: No Holds Barred)

The dial tone beep beep beeped in Melissa’s ear. Deep in thought, she returned to the living room. Darlene placed her magazine on the end table and looked hard at Melissa.

“Melissa, it’s time we talked.”

“You know, Mom, I’m really not in the mood for conversation.”

Darlene raised her voice. “I don’t care if you are or not. A week ago, you show up late at night and give us no explanation for it. Twice, by my count, a doctor calls the house. I want to know what’s going on.”

With a sigh, Melissa dropped onto the couch. “I’m not sure I even know.”

“Then let’s start at the beginning. Why did you leave home?”

She hesitated, considering her words before she uttered them. Melissa did not wish to mention John’s termination from Jenson College until she could confirm it. The insinuation had, after all, come from Jill.

“Because, I think,” Melissa said slowly as she assembled her answer, “John is doing some things that are not good.”

“Like what things?”

“I don’t know.”

“Then what makes you think John’s in trouble? Is he sick?”

“I think so.”

“Melissa, you’re going to have to level with me if you expect Steve and me to help you and John-Peter.”

Jumping to her feet, Melissa threw up her arms.

("Visage," Chapter 25: Surrendering to Fate)

Melissa’s heart nearly stopped at John’s unexpected touch. Before she could respond, John took her hand and started toward Katie’s driveway. “Let’s go.”


“I’d like a tour of Munsonville.”

“Now? This late?” Melissa grew uneasy and thought of her friends waiting inside for her. What if this man was John Simons? What if he wasn’t? “Can’t we go tomorrow?”

“I have a seminar in Thornton, remember?”

Melissa hesitated. Was it safe? Yet, how could she miss this chance with John? 

“Um, let me tell someone I’m leaving.”

“Why? They’ll never miss us. Munsonville can’t be that big.”

“It’s one short street.”

“Well then.”

Melissa relented and allowed John to lead her as he staggered across Katie’s driveway and down the hill of Blue Gill Road toward Main Street. The only gleam brightening the velvet night was the occasional living room lamp. Strangely, despite the chilly air, Melissa no longer felt cold. The warmth of John’s hand crept up her arm and radiated throughout her entire body until desire for John, whoever he was, filled her being. She dared not look at him.

They had reached the deserted Main Street. Hand in hand, they walked down one side and then back, with Melissa pointing out the various buildings.

“This is the grocery store. That’s Dalton’s Dry Goods; Ann’s dad owns that one. There’s Sue’s Diner, which Jack’s family runs, and where, believe it or not, the food’s really good.”

John winked at her. “Too bad I’m not staying another day. You owe me a meal, as I recall.”

Melissa blushed, glad this time for the darkness. Was John joking, or was he planning to officially see her again? He was here, now, so didn’t that mean....?

Stop, Melissa told herself. Remember your promise. This time doesn’t count. You didn’t know he was coming to Munsonville. Stick to the facts. John asked for a tour, not a lifetime commitment.

“There’s the library. Inside is a painting of John Simons that looks just like you.”

“How amusing.”

Something in John’s inflection jarred her. He was staring down at her as John Simons had the night he first kissed her, on the balcony at Albert Brumfeldt’s home, after Melissa had panicked at the malevolent beings sharing her dream. She looked up at Professor Simotes. He was John Simons, wasn’t he? Wasn’t he?

“That big red brick building on the end is the school.” Melissa hoped her voice didn’t sound as shaky as it felt. “All twelve grades are under one roof. That’s where I had the English teacher that inspired me to become one, too.”

“Your reason for attending Jenson.”

“Yes, well, I had won a contest that led to receiving a full scholarship.”

Melissa knew she was babbling, but luckily John wasn’t paying attention. Still holding her hand, he led Melissa over the bike trail and past the row of fishing cottages to the edge of Lake Munson. The murky water licked the shore with gentle, easy waves.

John leaned forward for a closer look. “I hear the fishing’s good.”

“It is. So are the leeches. We had a science teacher once bring a jarful to class. He collected them right from this lake.”

They continued in silence along the path. At the woods, John immediately tightened his hold and increased his pace. 

("Visage," Chapter 5: Under the Stars)

Just then, John Simotes and Brenda Garboldi entered the alley. Both wore jeans, and they held hands. John’s striped, collared shirt was slightly unbuttoned; Brenda’s hair was pulled back with a thick, tortoise-shelled barrette, making her look as young as the college girls. Melissa scowled before she realized she was doing it. Why were they here?

Of course, Melissa remembered. As a music professor, John supported the fundraiser. Naturally, he would bring his fiancé. She ducked her head before he could see her, grabbed the ball from Julie, and then scurried back to her seat. By experimenting with her standing position and craning her neck, Melissa obtained a clear view of them.

Julie snapped her fingers before Melissa’s eyes. “Quit daydreaming. Practice bowling has begun.”

“I can bomb without practicing.”

“Don’t be so negative, sheesh.”

That stung, but Melissa still managed only a listless roll. The ball veered straight to the gutter. Discouraged, Melissa plopped on a chair and watched the others knock down pin after pin. They made it look so easy.

She did no better the rest of the game. Between turns, Melissa watched lane eleven with growing resentment. Every time her teacher knocked over a single pin, John high fived her, or even worse, kissed her. Miss Garboldi looked thinner than Melissa, too.

“Hey, Melissa, you got a hundred,” Julie cried, beaming. “That’s not bad for the first game.”

Julie could afford to be generous. She had scored one hundred and fifty three. Then Melissa noticed Julie’s excitement at Melissa’s score, so Melissa resolved to concentrate much harder on game two, for Julie’s sake. However, between rolls, Melissa’s eyes strayed back to Professor Simotes and Miss Garboldi. Why did they have to handle each other so much? By turns, John cradled Miss Garboldi’s waist, draped an arm over her shoulder, or perched her on his lap. Melissa’s stomach began to hurt.

“They’re acting like a bunch of kids,” Melissa said, then caught herself. She hadn’t intended to say it aloud.

“Who is?” Julie picked up a rag and wiped her ball.

“Professor Simotes and Miss Garboldi.”

Julie peered down the alley. “So what? They’re in love. I’ve seen more action in the TV lounge on Friday nights. Come on, Melissa you’re up. Tenth frame.”

("Visage," Chapter 4: Outdated)

She returned to the front desk, gave Johnny a polite, “Good evening,” and rapidly stamped his cards. Melissa noticed both books pertained to advanced music theory.

As Melissa slid a due date slip into the front pocket of the second book, Johnny placed his hand on hers. A flushing warmth flowed through her at his touch. All thought froze; every heartbeat hammered out a single syllable, John. Melissa forgot about Mr. Schmidt, Pat, the cartful of books, and her promises to forsake the Bryony fantasies. Nothing else mattered. John had made contact with her.

“So I turn you down for dinner, and you give me the cold shoulder,” he said in a low voice.

The question only partly jolted Melissa into reality. She looked back at Mr. Schmidt, but he was ruffling through papers. Despite the cantering in her chest and trembling lips, she coldly met Johnny’s keen eyes and asked, “Will that be all, sir?”

He smothered a smile. “Yes,” he said, “for now.” 

Johnny picked up his book and sauntered to the door.

("Visage," Chapter 3: In the Shadow of Bryony)

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