Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation

Santa, what are your eyebrows doing? Telling Details and Taco Bell Smells.

Episode file not found! Please check if the file has been attached to this episode!

The Magic of The Eyebrow and Telling Details

What is this thing? This telling detail? 

It’s a phrase or an image or a word that illustrates something about a character. It’s pretty exact. It’s a magical moment of showing rather than telling. 

It’s usually pretty short. 

And it’s the opposite of a telling description. 

Here’s a bad description: 

He was nervous and scared and sad all at once. 

Here’s a telling-detail description: 

He soothed himself, rubbing the tips of his own ears over and over. 

Telling details make the characters and settings feel real. If we say, “Shaun lifted his eyebrows?” Well, that’s a cliché, but also it’s not quite enough to be a telling detail no matter how much people communicate with their eyebrows. 

Here’s a bad description: 

They walked into an almost empty bar. 

We don’t really see the bar, do we? 

Here’s something a bit better: 

The bar smelled of beer and lilac bushes somehow. The Sonos speaker tottering on the edge of the reclaimed wood bar blared “Something’s Coming” from West Side Story. A man leaning between ferns used a pencil to smash a hole into the bottom of a Bud Lite can and chugged it all down. He crushed the empty can between his hands and belched out the alphabet to cheers. 

“Wow. This place is weird,” I said and grabbed the door handle, ready to bolt. 

Writing Tip of the Pod

When you’re revising think, “Can I make this shorter? Tighter? Quirkier? More authentic?” 

Dog Tip for Life


Notice the eyebrows. The difference. The details. And use them in your stories.

Last week's podcast



Brought to you by Carrie Jones and Shaun Farrar of Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation