Home » Writing

The Character's Character - 'Show, Don't Tell'

May 17, 2008
If readers can't identify with, care about, or somehow share the feelings of the characters, despite a perfect plot and poetic prose, the story is likely to bomb. Readers must respond to the characters viscerally, with sympathy or antipathy, early on. Readers want their primitive feelings titillated. They want to feel different -- better or worse -- after reading the story than before. So how do you do that? Consider the following:

The better the author knows the character, the better the portrayal of her is likely to be. How do you get to know her? What makes your hero or your villain exciting? What features distinguish her from everyone else in the world and make her interesting? What attributes resonate with the reader to make her care? Keep this in mind as you rewrite.

The author must bring that dull, empty page to life, and make it exciting. She needs to have some appreciation of her character's physical appearance as well as here innate and acquired capacity to make choices, for ultimately what moves your reader is your character's character as determined by the choices she makes.

Good physical description that conveys imagery is important. A huge nose, bald head and twitching tic of the eyes or mouth? Conservative or racy dress? Pot belly or overgenerous butt? Race? I.Q? These are the innate, congenital factors. The writer needs to know and understand them. They impact on character definition. So, the author should describe the character's interesting habits, manner of dressing and visceral reactions to people, places and happenings as the plot progresses.

However, it is the choices the character makes move the reader. And the more risk the character takes in choosing, the more the depth of character's character is revealed.

What, then, determines how she makes choices that fundamentally change her when she is confronted by a dilemma or conflicting options? This event is a turning point, The character fundamentally changes as she makes this difficult choice. It moves (accelerates and/or resolves) the plot. We agree with that character's decision or we don't, but we and we care are hooked.

All your character's physical being and learning tools are in place from birth, indeed from conception. They are innate. The quality of these physical features and learning tools and the ability to use them varies from one character to another.

Past history and life experiences, i.e., the acquired factors also contribute. The author should know them, too; know the pertinent events in the character's past that impacted on her personality and decision making: She nearly drowned at age seven; She is anxious about boating or cruising, she's afraid of the water; She was applauded for the dance she did when she was five; She opted for study of music and performing arts and frowns on the sciences. Her daddy loved her demonstratively; her uncle abused her emotionally; the gardener raped her -- all this impacts on how, as an adult, she deals with men. But always remember what is important: "Show, don't tell!"
About the Author
Melvin M. Harter is a retired physician. He specialized in evaluation of the causes and extent of injury and disability. He has become a freelance writer and author of the novel, Some Kind of Angel. This sci-fi thriller explores the world of terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and genocide. For more, visit Some Kind of Angel and view the video trailer.
Rating:
Please Rate:
(Average: Not rated)
Views: 260
Print Email Report Share
Article Categories
    • Artists
    • Gambling
    • Humanities
    • Humor
    • Movies
    • Music
    • Photography
    • Tattoos
    • Television
    • Classic Cars
    • Motorcycles
    • Recreational Vehicles
    • SUVs
    • Trucks
    • Vans
    • Branding
    • Business Opportunities
    • Careers and Jobs
    • Corporate
    • Customer Service
    • Direct Mail
    • Entrepreneurship
    • Ethics
    • Financing
    • Franchising
    • Home-Based Business
    • Human Resources
    • Import and Export
    • Leadership
    • Management
    • Market Research
    • Marketing and Advertising
    • Negotiation
    • Network Marketing
    • Networking
    • Organizational
    • Presentation
    • Project Management
    • Public Relations
    • Small Business
    • Strategic Planning
    • Team Building
    • Telemarketing
    • Training
    • Data Recovery
    • Databases
    • Games
    • Hardware
    • Networks
    • Operating Systems
    • Programming
    • Security
    • Software
    • Spyware and Viruses
    • Ask an Expert
    • College and University
    • Home Schooling
    • K-12
    • Languages
    • Online Education
    • Psychology
    • Accounting
    • Credit
    • Currency Trading
    • Debt Consolidation
    • Insurance
    • Investing
    • Leasing
    • Loans
    • Mortgage
    • Mutual Funds
    • Personal Finance
    • Stock Market
    • Structured Settlements
    • Taxes
    • Wealth Building
    • Coffee
    • Cooking
    • Gourmet
    • Recipes
    • Wine and Spirits
    • Acne
    • Aerobics
    • Alternative Medicine
    • Beauty
    • Cancer
    • Cosmetics
    • Depression
    • Diabetes
    • Diseases and Conditions
    • Fitness Equipment
    • Fitness
    • Hair Loss
    • Heart Disease
    • Medicine
    • Men's Health
    • Muscle Building
    • Nutrition
    • Skin Care
    • Supplements and Vitamins
    • Weight Loss
    • Women's Health
    • Yoga
    • Arts and Crafts
    • Babies
    • Collecting
    • Elderly Care
    • Genealogy
    • Hobbies
    • Parenting
    • Pets
    • Pregnancy
    • Woodworking
    • Feng Shui
    • Gardening
    • Home Appliances
    • Home Security
    • Interior Design
    • Landscaping
    • Affiliate Programs
    • Article Marketing
    • Auctions
    • Audio
    • Banner Advertising
    • Blogging
    • Broadband
    • Domain Names
    • E-Books
    • E-Commerce
    • Email Marketing
    • Ezines and Newsletters
    • Forums
    • Internet Marketing
    • Link Popularity
    • Pay-Per-Click
    • Podcasting
    • RSS
    • Search Engine Marketing
    • Search Engine Optimization
    • Security
    • Social Media
    • Spam
    • Video
    • Viral Marketing
    • Web Design
    • Web Development
    • Web Hosting
    • Copyright
    • Cyber Law
    • Intellectual Property
    • National, State, Local
    • Patents
    • Regulatory Compliance
    • Trademarks
    • Buying
    • Selling
    • Baseball
    • Basketball
    • Boating
    • Cycling
    • Extreme Sports
    • Fishing
    • Football
    • Golf
    • Hockey
    • Hunting
    • Martial Arts
    • Running
    • Scuba Diving
    • Soccer
    • Swimming
    • Tennis
    • Dating
    • Divorce
    • Marriage
    • Weddings
    • Astrology
    • Buddhism
    • Christianity
    • Faith
    • Hinduism
    • Islam
    • Judaism
    • Meditation
    • Metaphysical
    • New Age
    • Cable and Satellite TV
    • Cell Phones
    • Communication
    • Gadgets and Gizmos
    • GPS
    • Satellite Radio
    • Video Conferencing
    • VoIP
    • Addictions
    • Coaching
    • Goal Setting
    • Motivational
    • Stress Management
    • Time Management
    • Clothing
    • Electronics
    • Fashion
    • Gifts
    • Jewelry
    • Causes and Organizations
    • Environment
    • History
    • Holidays
    • Men's Issues
    • Nature
    • Philosophy
    • Politics
    • Women's Issues
    • World Affairs
    • Air Travel
    • Camping
    • Cruises
    • Destinations
    • Outdoors