Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Sympathetic to Characters

One of our beta readers, Taryn Taylor (hey, girl *waves*), made a small note on one scene in one of our stories that has the potential to revolutionize the way Deanna and I approach writing!
Sounds BIG, right? It is.

Here it is, and I quote,
"The reader only cares as much as the character cares."

Maybe the blog title of this post should be:
Sympathetic Character Reader

Our content editor made a similar comment:
"You tend to focus on a lot of show and not enough tell."
B-b-but, I thought we were supposed to show not tell!

Nope, just lots of show and very little tell. Here are a few examples what we are learning about. I'll use red to show you the tell part.

1.  From Jessica Rules the Dark Side (Beth Fantaskey)
"My heart had started pounding harder with each step I'd taken toward that chamber, and it was racing so hard by then that I was afraid it might explode. A vampire's heart shouldn't beat that fast. I wiped my mouth again, because I couldn't get rid of that bitter, sour taste, even though my tongue was dry as a bone."
*We have some great description of physical reaction, SHOWING us how nervous and afraid the character is. Then there was just that very tiny bit of TELL that amplifies the reason we care to watch this unfold.

2. From Matched (Ally Condie)
"Ky is not my Match, but he might have been. He's the one who taught me how to write my name, how to keep the poems, how to build a tower of rocks that look like it should fall but it doesn't. I have never kissed him and I don't know if I ever will, but I think it might be more than sweet."
*This passage does a great job SHOWING us the events that endear Ky to Cassia, but the tiny little TELL gives us a reason to care! That little bit of "tell" keeps the story from sounding clinical and engages the reader's heart.

So next time you hear SHOW V. TELL, think SHOW & TELL, instead.

Pull open a few books, read some paragraphs. Look for the Show & Tell. Seems like this is a well kept secret that you and I can exploit for better prose.


Donna K. Weaver said...

Yeah. I was stuck on that show, don't tell thing, and my editor would say "summerize this in a short paragraph."

Taryn A. Taylor said...

Canda--You guys are amazing writers! I'm glad I could give a little help:)--you guys don't need much!