C is for Characterization! #atozchallenge

We’re onto day three, which means the letter C! I’ve decided I’ll post veerrrrry briefly about  characterization…which is one of those things that I always heard about. While I had a sense of what it meant in an abstract way, I didn’t really sit down and actually think about its role in my writing for way too long. Regardless, this is what I’ve kind of figured out about characterization so far.

Characterization is all about revealing the character in the story, but not just telling the reader about the character (unless it fits in that particular style of writing). This is some of where that “telling vs. showing” thing comes in. When I’m writing a novel for NaNoWriMo, the likelihood that I’m going to just tell rather than show gets very high. Since I’m already writing quickly, this is very easy to fall into:

Theresa had a quick temper and became angry easily, but she never liked to fight, so instead of fighting with Jordan, she left suddenly  instead.

Hmmm… that’s a long, kind-of-meh sentence. Instead, I’m working on showing it because it’s relevant to the story:

Jordan grimaced and ran a hand through his hair. “I don’t agree with what you’re sayi—”

“I think we’re out of eggs,” interrupted Theresa.

“But…”

Theresa shot him a warning look. Her eyes flashed with fire as she clenched her bag in one tight fist.

 Jordan flinched at the slam of the door. Theresa’s sudden absence left a silence that throbbed with unspoken words.

While that wasn’t necessarily the best example (and I’m over here anxiously poking at it), at least it feels a little less meh! Hopefully you get a sense of what I’m getting at. In some ways, it’s the difference between giving your story a fairy tale feel or a modern novel feel. It’s definitely a stylistic choice, and there are some excellent novels out there that tell about characters rather than show sections of the story. But it’s necessary to figure out what works in your writing and style. This is something I’m still working out so if I’m getting it wrong, let me know!

How do you think about characterization? And if you’re a reader, do you have a favorite character where the writer imparted information without just telling it to you?

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9 Comments Add yours

  1. artistpath says:

    Great example! I’m still learning about characterization and showing instead of telling. This was very helpful!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Clarice says:

      Great! I’m glad this was helpful!

      Like

  2. Rian Durant says:

    Very nice post! The first sentence is a total meh unless you want to write a “journalism” style novel. Things like this made it hard for me to read “One hundred years of solitude”. Showing is always the best!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Clarice says:

      Thank you! Also, yeah. An author I often enjoy, Alice Hoffman, also writes in that style. Since she is also labeled as magical realism, I guess that style of novel often ends up with more of a telling rather than a showing style of writing. I like reading it sometimes, but I’m terrible at trying to write that way. Heh.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Rian Durant says:

        I probably wouldn’t be able if I tried. I love dialogue, both writing and reading. Is D fir dialogue? :p

        Like

      2. Clarice says:

        Not this time! Heh.

        Like

  3. Alex says:

    I think characterization is more about making your characters real, 3D individuals than just showing vs telling. I try, but I often wonder if all my characters sound the same or whether they just seem like cutouts that only exist for the story. Still, I like creating characters more than creating backstory.

    Like

    1. Clarice says:

      Totally fair! I’m trying to keep these sort of short, and am not able to dig in super deep every time. Differentiating character voices can be tough. I tend to try to imagine what they would sound like and pick out words that I think that character would use a lot and make lists of favorite words and phrases. This helps me keep straight who sounds like what. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Alex says:

        Yeah definitely lots of details that could be gone into, but it’s not necessarily a good idea. 😉 My story today got longer than I set my limit but I’m just going to go with it. It’s still not super long and B was super short.
        That’s a great idea, picking out favorite words and phrases! People really do have them, even if they don’t usually notice.

        Like

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