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.
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?