I feel like my problem is two-fold:

1) I don’t know how to make my character’s motivations, beliefs and feelings clear without being very upfront about it. Examples:

  • A character that believes everyone’s life is predestined, will just outright state “I don’t believe people have free will/I believe in fate”.

  • A character who is unsure of their identity, will just think to herself “Who am I?”

  • A character who’s afraid of getting hurt, will just think something like “I don’t want to be hurt anymore”.

  • A character who is distrustful, will just think “I don’t trust people”.

As you can see, all these examples are non-subtle. I think I might be struggling with “show, don’t tell”. However, this is why my problem is two-fold.

2) Because people don’t always say what they mean. People often want to be perceived differently (stronger, nicer etc.) than what they are. For example:

  • I have a character who will consciously say things like “you shouldn’t marry someone you’re too comfortable with” in front of her boyfriend. She does this because she wants to regain the “emotional power” in the relationship, since she feels like she cares for him (or has shown that she cares for him) too much. She will also say things like “I didn’t miss you”, because she wants him to say “that’s okay. I missed you even if you didn’t miss me.” She wants the reassurance that he cares for her even if she claims she doesn’t care for him (again, she wants to regain what she sees at the emotional power in the relationship). How do I make her motivations and feelings clear, without stating it outright?

  • The same character will say things like “I’d rather die than betray who I am” or “I believe there’s value in doing good, no matter.” These statements are pretty grandiose/showy. But that’s the thing, she has an image of how she wants to be perceived, and says things to “create” this image of her. Even if she knows that she doesn’t always follow/believe what she says, she says them so people will view her in a certain light. How do I make her motivations, beliefs and feelings clear, when what she says is not necessarily comepletly truthful? In addition to making sure I don’t state her motivations, beliefs and feelings outright.

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What can I leave the reader to figure out themselves?

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