Day 19 – Describing Your Ancestor’s Internal Reactions


Yesterday we reviewed external actions and reactions that came in the form of gestures and mannerisms and how they can help show important information about our ancestor.

Today, we look at the internal reactions of our ancestors.  Internal reactions are those things that our ancestor has less control over such as their internal bodily reactions such as a racing heart or sweaty palms during a stressful moment.  It also includes emotional reactions to a stimulus or an event. While our ancestor may be able to manage them once they appear, the initially appear without a conscious will or decision. It comprises expressions of emotions, such as the immediate response one has the minute they have been told a family member has died.

But instead of naming it, or telling those emotions, we want to show them to the reader. They are important in engaging the reader’s emotions.

Internal reactions are a central tool in engaging your reader’s emotions. Here are few tips to consider to help you serve them up with maximum impact.


  1. Add variety – Our body responds to outside stimulus in a variety of ways. Don’t refer to the same response over and again, like sweaty palms.  Try to use different reactions rather than using the same reaction over and again


  1. Avoid Showing and Telling. – We can quickly fall into the habit of both showing and telling when providing a reaction for instance.

          Her heart pounded with fear.  Instead consider,  Her heart pounded.   Let the context of the story around the statement inform the reader that it is a result of fear.


  1. A Personalized Point of View – Be sure to consider the point of view from which the internal reaction is coming from. For example a burn from touching a hot pot – If your grandmother was to touch the pot the reaction would be completely different than if a young child was to touch the pot. Make sure the reaction is personalized to the individual point of view.


  1. Something Must trigger the Reaction – An ancestor does not have an internal reaction without something to prompt the action or reaction.  Make sure your story shows the trigger for the reaction. The reader needs to see the reason for the response for it to make sense to them.


  1. Don’t Overuse Reactions – Save instinctive reactions for critical If you use them too often, they leave less of an emotional impact on your reader.