Show, Don’t Tell
When an author wants to let readers know that a character is, say, courageous, she doesn’t write, “Chris was courageous.” Instead, she sets up a situation in which the character has to act bravely, even if he or she feels fearful, showing just how courageous the character is.
Christopher Columbus showed courage by doing something—crossing an ocean when many believed he would fall from the edge of the earth into oblivion.
“Show, don’t tell” is an important element of writing stories. You don’t want to insult your readers by telling them how characters feel or what a character is like. You want to show them by putting your character into a situation that makes him or her act a particular way.
So, is your character brave? Show her doing something brave like coming up with a plan to save her brother who gets his foot caught in a rope and is dangling over a steep precipice. She’ll quickly devise a strategy and then do it, with little thought to her own safety.
Now it’s your turn: Choose a trait (either positive or negative) and then put a character into a situation to show that trait to readers. Don’t mention the trait you are showing. In other words, don’t tell the trait to your readers; show it in action.
If you can’t think of a character, borrow one from a book or a movie. You can write either a scene or a short story.
Note: Monday, October 12, is also Native American Day. If you are of Native American heritage, think of a trait that your tribe values or valued in the past and then put a character into a situation to show that trait to readers. Don’t mention the trait you are showing. If you can’t think of a character, borrow one from a book or a movie. You can write either a scene or a short story.
Copyright © 2015 by Sharon Watson
Image credit: Sharon Watson
Original image: graphicstock.com
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