Writing has to rely on words. So how do you show what’s happening?
You do it with description. Here are 8 items to include when you start out.
When I describe a scene I pretend I’m a camera picking up visual cues. The lens sees the furniture in the room, the curtains, the sunlight on the floor, the grain of the wood cabinets, the dust motes in the air.
Pancakes doused with syrup have a sweet, yeasty aroma. There’s a tang of lemon from the furniture polish and the fresh scent of salt through the open window from the beach.
Feel the cashmere throw on the couch that’s soft and fuzzy from years of use or the smooth metallic picture frames. See a small boy reading a tattered book and wearing frayed overalls and a well-worn cotton shirt.
Describe the geography: are you in a room, a house, an office building? Are you in the country, on a farm, at the beach? What’s the weather?
Identify their gender, age, coloring, nationality. There’s also occupation, hobbies, dreams, and purpose. What kind of clothes do they wear? How do they act? Are there other people involved?
Issue at hand
What’s the situation? It could be a job change, a medical emergency, looking for love, or saving the world. What does the reader need to know right now? What things will be needed later?
Good stories build on conflict and tension, and those create emotion. Characters react to their circumstances. If the TV goes on the blink, your heroine may be annoyed. If a friend is in trouble and she can’t get through, she’ll be frustrated and worried. If her house burns down, she’ll be distraught. If her life is threatened, she’ll be terrified.
Voice, Expression, Movement
Your words don’t have their own voice, facial expressions, and body movement, but your characters do. Is your heroine quiet or loud? Does she smirk or scowl or glare? Does she flap her hands when she’s worried or ball her fists when she’s angry?
Every scene is an opportunity for you to let the reader in and show off your world. Make sure you describe what your characters are doing and feeling as they progress on their journeys.