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In a previous post, I discussed how useful beats are to show your readers instead of telling them. I also advised against using beats too often because it can dilute their effect. Another way to devalue the impact of beats is by telling readers what those beats are already showing.

For example, the following beats do a solid job of letting us know what the character is thinking:

  • He slammed his cup down so hard that it broke. (His actionshows us that he's angry.)
  • She rolled her eyes. (Her actionshows us that she's irritated/exasperated.)
  • She batted her eyelashes at him. (Her actionshows us that she's being flirtatious.)
  • He cocked his head to the side. (His action shows us that he's confused.)

When writers tell us what the beats are already showing us, it can become a problem if done too frequently. I recently read a novel in which the author included an explanation after almost every beat, and as a result I found myself repeatedly thinking, "Why is she telling me this? Doesn't she see how obvious it is that (insert name of character) is (insert adjective)?"

Here are some examples of what I mean:

  • He slammed his cup down so hard that it broke, furious.
  • She rolled her eyes, exasperated.
  • She batted her eyelashes at him, clearly flirting.
  • He cocked his head to the side, confused.

Am I the only one who finds these explanations unnecessary? I doubt it. Readers are smart, so respect that intelligence. We might all have a tendency to tell too much in the first draft, but that's what revisions are for! It's never fun to cut your own words, but your writing will be better for it, and your readers will appreciate it. I promise.

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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor and the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Have questions for Maria? You can find her at

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1,455 Views Tags: self_publishing, books, writing, promotions, action_beats, writing_tip, dialgue_tags

Apr 18, 2017 9:17 AM some1    says:

Actually I like the verbose style. Yes, I would throw everything in my arsenal and say it like this:


She slammed her cup down so hard that it broke, she was so furious; then exasperated, she rolled her eyes; and after a little while later she batted her eyelashes at him--clearly flirting;

but then with no reactions forthcoming, very confused, she cocked her head to the side and ....