Friday, August 17, 2012

Who in the World is Narrating this Story?

You want your readers to get to know your characters. That’s crucial for establishing a reader-main character connection. If that connection is not there, your reader might not continue reading.
But you can’t make a laundry list of who your character is. No one wants to sit through even a paragraph of: Character A loves the color green, has an irrational fear of puppies, and not so secretly wishes her sister would clean her half of the room. Bored yet?
In my last post, I mentioned using details to show things about the characters. But how do you do that?
Think about the color green. What is your reaction to someone giving you a green shirt? If green is your absolute favorite color, you’d see it and be excited. If you loathe green like no other color, you’d note it and perhaps be annoyed. If you are completely indifferent to the color green, then you might not even think about the color.
Or with puppies. Someone who is deathly afraid of puppies will describe a great dane puppy galloping towards them entirely different from someone who adores dogs. With that detail and how you describe it, you wouldn’t necessarily even have to tell the reader that Character A is scared of dogs. If the reader sees the sharp toothed, glinty eyed beast charging and the character nearly peeing themselves, then they know that Character A is scared of dogs.
In my last post, I asked if you should describe tattered, stained carpets. How would the carpet be described by the following characters:
A young couple walking into the house they just bought.
A little kid who has lived there his entire life.
A frazzled mother whose in-laws are coming over in an hour.
A hostage.
Each of these characters would describe the same tattered, stained carpets entirely different. I’m not completely certain the kid would even notice or describe the carpets unless a. the stains were shaped like Mickey Mouse or b. In the very very recent past, they caused one of the stains.
Any other thoughts on letting the details work to show your readers your characters?
Happy writing!


  1. Great tip on showing the reactions. I think we could do worse than watch people's reactions in real life to get inspiration in this regard. Comes down to show not tell, again.

  2. I try to remember that since I write multiple points of view in my fantasy books.

  3. The way a character interacts with say, a waitress, or cab driver, reveals a lot about him. Ditto how he responds to a stray dog, disappointment, or bad news.

  4. Greetings!

    I'm hopping over from GUTGAA and wanted to visit some blogs before the fun begins! Nice to meet have a lovely blog!

    Donna L Martin

  5. Great post! You basically highlighted the reason behind the "show, don't tell" rule. :-D

  6. I noticed the carpet as a child when the holes got big enough that a kitten crawled under and got stuck.