I have two characters and they are very reserved. They wear poker-face most of the time, that's how I picture them in my head.

But when I turn my ideas into the letters I have to exaggerate their emotions. To show their emotional state I have to apply to their body language, so the text turns into "show don't tell". It benefits the readability, but it ruins my characters to some extent. The storm of emotions is always in the inside and never in the outside.

If I keep my characters as they are intended, they will lose all these visible signs and the text turns into "tell don't show". It benefits their characterisation, but it ruins my text instead. It gets bleak. Because I have to "tell" what do they feel at the extact moments, since they are reserved enough not to use any body language. Also their lack of visible action and reaction can make readers think that the "plot-driving conflict" is artificial, exaggerated, insignificant etc. Which destroys the text as a whole.

So it's a dilemma. Do I simply lack the skill to show subtly and cunningly that seemingly cold characters can experience all kinds of emotions? That even a minor action is very significant and have a meaning? Without exaggerating and altering them and preserving "show don't tell" aspect? Any compromise?

For exampe.

In my head: Character A watches character B and is growing very jealous. He just stands and watches and dies out of jealousy.

In the text: Character A gritted his teeth. His fingers dug into the window's arch as if trying to crush the stony ledge into crumbs.

Read:  Untangling this blasted love triangle?

Tell, don't show (simple, explicit, boring): A hot flair of jealosuy surged in the character A as he watched character B.

Source: reddit post


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