21st Century personal history and 21st Century fiction follow the same principles. Dramatic narrative takes us beyond description. Screenplays and scripts for motion pictures and television dramatizations are roadmaps for performance. Novels, short stories, and personal essays are roadmaps for reader engagement. The best way to describe a person, a place, or an object is through action. Action is a character responding to a stimulus. Any variation is a description or a tell.
We’re all trying to pursue dramatic writing, not descriptive writing,
The dramatic information comes from what our principal characters know or experience. We can’t slip in the stage directions. We can tell them it’s cold outside, that they’re hungry or apprehensive. We have to put them into situations where they become aware of and respond to the cold, the hunger, the curiosity, or the apprehension.
Relying on descriptions and laundry lists because of past times when readers or listeners gave you props for the poetry of your prose, most of “them” have imperfect concepts of both poetry and prose.
Story is action that leads to emotion.
First thing to happen after a play or film has been cast, the actors assemble in a situation much like our Zoom sessions, in which the director goes through the script line-by line, marking the action that is to take place. Through these table readings, the actors get the sense of who they’ll be dealing with, the emotional, cultural, and political attitudes of each to the other. This process, known as blocking, reminds us how actors got their name. They act. They feel.
You don’t have to ask the actor portraying you what you feel, but you have to do better than describing how you felt to your reader. You have to become the you at every discreet moment in your narrative, then engage it. Comfortable won’t get it. You have to find a way to conduct yourself that allows someone watching you to see your intended emotion, or you have to in some way cause another character if you feel okay because you don’t look so hot. And you have to respond with a bit of a heavy hand to convey you’re over protecting yourself, that you’re fine, damnit.