Okay, so last Thursday I focused on the ‘show’ not ‘tell’ of anger in writing. I used an example of Francine Rivers and Steven James. Today I want to pull in an example from one of my all-time favorite authors, Mary Connealy.
Mary uses a fine mixture of physical description, internal monologue, and dialogue to bring about the ‘sense’ of anger in her character. To give you a good picture of it, here is a hilarious first scene from her newest release, Doctor in Petticoats.
Beth surged to her feet. “We need help over here!”
The man didn’t even look up. He stared as if asleep with his eyes open.
Well, Beth wasn’t one to let a good temper tantrum go to waste and seriously, this afternoon had worn her out right to her last bit of restraint. . . and beyond.
Who better to punish?
She looked down at the stage driver and Mrs. Armitage, struggling to hold the injured man in place. “I’m going to get us some help.”
The stage driver looked with distaste at the other passenger. “Good luck.”
Beth whirled and used the hundred foot downhill march to get her knees to stop shaking. Not because she was afraid of this man. She still had her gun, but because the afternoon had just been more than too much.
She stomped to the man’s side and, carefully considering her approach—or maybe not so carefully—she grabbed the man’s filthy, flattened black Stetson off his head and swatted him with it.
“Hey!” He turned as if surprised to see her.
“I didn’t exactly sneak up on you, now did I?” She waled on him again.
He shielded his face. His once-white shirt tore up one side at his sudden movement. “Will you stop that?”
The sound of the ripping fabric—good grief it looked like silk—gave Beth a sense of doing the Lord’s work. She wondered how long he’d been wearing it. The cloth must be rotten to tear so easily.
“Do I have your attention, you miserable worm?” Beth threw the hat at his head.
He held his arms over his face, the bedraggled white sleeves rolled up nearly to his elbows, and glared through his wrists at her. His eyes narrowed.
It occurred to Beth that the man might be dangerous. Well, she could be dangerous, too. If he was, she’d make him sorry he showed that side of himself.
Doing her very best to set his skin on fire with her eyes, she leaned down, hoping to find a balance where she could rage at him without Mrs. Armitage hearing her. The poor woman had been through enough.
“You get up off the ground and help us, you worthless skunk.”
And wasn’t skunk just exactly the right word for the filthy pig?
“Get away from me.” The wormy, skunky pig’s eyes flashed like he had rabies.
Gritting her teeth so she could look fierce and still breathe through her mouth, she leaned closer. “You stand up right now.”
She hissed at him like a rattle snake, so she had a few animal attributes of her own. “I need help. I don’t care how drunk you are, how lazy you are or how stupid you are. Right now I need some muscle, and I know you’ve got it. Get on your feet and get over there and help us, or so help me I will rip your arm off and beat you to death with the bloody stump.”
The man’s eyes seemed to clear. Maybe she’d pierced the alcoholic fog. “I’m not drunk.”
Interesting that he hadn’t protested being called stupid or worthless or a skunk. . . what else had she called him? She’d lost track of her insults somewhere along the line.
“Oh, puh-leeze, you expect me to believe you’re this worthless without the help of whiskey?” Beth jammed her fists on her hips and straightened away from him. She had to get some air. “If that’s true then I might as well shoot you here and now. Do the whole world a favor.”
Isn’t it hilarious? Of course, the dialogue gives the anger away pretty clearly, but I think Mary’s best talent is getting inside her characters’ heads. She’s brilliant at it. And Beth’s character just makes it all the more fun.
And check out all those ‘action’ words. Plus her sentences are shorter – which can be used to express anger, fear, or excitement in writing.
If you’ve not read a Connealy Classic, start today. Montana Rose is my favorite from the ‘Marriages’ series, and Petticoat Ranch is another wonderful place to start.