Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Technical Topic - Show Versus Tell III: The Motivation
"Can I just SAY why a character does something? Can I just state it outright?
Isn't that 'telling' instead of showing?"
Well ... yes.
And so what if it is?
Sometimes we shows and sometimes we just sets ourselves down and tells.
Reveal motivation in action, in dialog, in facial expression, in physical reactions, by foreshadowing, through symbolism and metaphor. Let the other characters note what's going on in their dialog. Use internal Monologue.
Show. Tell. Send up smoke signals. Let there be a Goddamned voice coming down from the sky.
Your reader picks up the book with the TV blasting in the next room, her three small children running back and forth, and she's got 15 minutes before she has to go fix dinner.
Do her a favor. Be accessible.
Just plain stating the motivation is one vegetable in the minestrone, the kris knife in your arsenal, the metric torque wrench in your toolbox.
Any writing 'rule' that tells you to toss out a useful technique is doing you no favor.
There's no writing technique that can't be done well.