Show, Don’t Tell!
I never studied literature. Never. In fact, until recently, I didn’t like reading novels either. I read other books, but novels? no!
When I started noticing my flair for writing stories, I had to cultivate the habit of reading the ones written by others too. Alexander Steele once wrote, “Painters often learn their craft by studying the masters, and writers should do the same.”
In addition to reading stories, some months ago, I started reading a textbook on Fiction Writing. I found in one of the chapters which talk about building characters in a story—as I have also found in most other books on writing fiction—this resounding warning, ‘Show, don’t tell!’
I took some notes while reading and I’ll share them with you along with a very important lesson.
Showing and Telling.
Two basic methods of revealing a character in fiction are:
– Showing, and
- Show, don’t tell!
- Showing gives the reader more with which to engage actively.
- The bulk of characterization should come through showing characters to the reader.
- The trick in showing instead of telling is to find the specific details that will convey the necessary information while the reader’s attention stays on the character’s emotion and actions—the interesting stuff.
- Showing helps you to slow down and reveal the character’s intricacies gradually.
Four Ways to Show a Character’s Traits
* Action speaks louder that words.
* I’ll believe it when I see it.
* While all actions are revealing, the actions a character takes in the time of crises often cut to the core of the character’s true self and intentions.
* Characters are also revealed through their speech.
* What people say, how they say it, and what they don’t say are all very illuminating.
* If you want to get to know someone, talk to them.
* A glimpse of someone can give you a lot of information about his personality like physical look, clothing style, gait, and facial expression.
* Don’t just go for the obvious, include oddball details.
* Get inside the character’s mind.
I’d like you to read through that all over again and wherever you see ‘character‘, replace it with ‘Christian‘. Also, all that is said about a character, apply it to the Christian too.
If you are a Christian, show it, don’t just tell me. Let me see it in your action, let me hear it in your speech, let it show in your appearance, and let God see it in your thoughts.
A song writer wrote:
Can the world see Jesus in you?
Can they see His love in the things that you do?
Are you living the life? Are you faithful and true?
Can the world see Jesus, see Jesus in you?
May God help us to be Christians in deeds, not just in words. Amen.