Telling is claiming. Showing is proving.
Even acknowledging what I said in my last post on Show, Don’t Tell, the fact remains: when it comes to character development, “show don’t tell” translates to “actions speak louder than words.” And it’s especially important with our main characters.
Continuing the series on Show, Don’t Tell.
I have this awful habit of writing little narrative “character sketches” devoid of dialogue or action; simply summarizing the personalities of my heroes. I was all set to write a post about how to avoid this—with the “actions speak louder than words” approach I touched on in this post—but Wednesday morning, Mark Twain changed my mind.
So let’s finish up Example Number 2 from last week.
Once again, the background exposition (telling):
I had been the youngest ever accepted into the Academy, and the quickest ever to graduate. Since then, I had sought out every acclaimed blade-wielder in the five kingdoms, and defeated them all. I had come to this city for one reason only; to challenge the last.
Background exposition. When your characters have enough history to fill another whole book, but you’re not ready to write that book yet (or ever).
It usually looks like this (notice the proliferation of past perfect tense):
CC Image by Scott Ogle
It’s the first rule of writing. We hear it all the time. In fact, it’s almost all we hear. Over and over again, they tell us…
Show, don’t tell.
Show; don’t tell.
Show! Don’t tell!