Sunday, February 27, 2011

Writing Class - Revealing Character Through Action

Novice writers often make the mistake of describing their characters rather than showing them in action. This not only slows the story down, but can be tedious to read.

To make your writing more powerful, try replacing common character descriptors with revealing action that forms part of the story. For example:

1. Instead of ‘Ted was stingy’ or ‘Ted was frugal’:

· Ted rummaged in the dark for his box of used matches. No point in throwing them out when he could use them again.

· Ted folded the piece of toilet paper over again and again; it would be a waste to flush it away after just one wipe.

· Why was the little girl asking for money? It had taken Ted a lifetime to accrue what he had, and he wasn’t about to part with it now.

2. Instead of ‘Beth was generous’ or ‘Beth was kind’:

· Beth gave the remaining coin to the beggar.

· Ignoring the rumble in her stomach, Beth handed her sandwich to the man with the limp. He did look hungry.

· As she changed the baby’s nappy, Beth smiled at her mum. ‘I’ll look after him,’ she said. ‘You go and rest.’

Do you prefer this approach? Or would you rather stick with ‘Ted was stingy’, ‘Beth was kind’?


  1. A quick and astute introduction to that whole "show don't tell" thing. Nice examples. I especially like the toilet paper one, haha.

  2. Very good examples! I know as a reader I like being able to form my own view of a character and that's hard to do when I'm told what they're like.