Show and Tell Cheat Sheet
From Writer’s Digest
July – August 2018 Issue
Creating characters can be a pleasure or the bane of writers everywhere. Below is a terrific aid from Writers Digest. While we’re talking about characters. do you keep a file of names? I’ve gotten names from:
- license plates
- street signs
- product names
- misspellings at the keyboard – Ufudi, is from a tangle of typing. He’s an Egyptian in my historical novel.
- from words that pop into my mind
- anywhere is fare game
- be sure to carry some paper and a pen.
|A character’s emotional
|Show||Don’t tell readers a character was ashamed or joyful;
show them reactions
|A characters Attitude||Show||Rather than explain a character is uptight or
judgmental, show them acting that way or reveal it
through lines of dialogue.
|A character’s special
skills of abilities
|Show||Don’t tell readers what a great fighter the character is; render a fight scene in which something meaningful is at stake.|
|Status (dominance /
|Show||Instead of telling readers which character is in charge of
who has the highest status, reveal it through stillness,
self-control, confidence and self-assurance.
|Tension and suspense||Show||The more you claim that something is suspenseful of
tense, the less it will be. Instead, build tension through
engendering reader empathy and concern for characters
|Desire (a character’s
goal or intention within
|If you show, do so quickly and clearly. Otherwise, just
have the character state what she’s trying to accomplish.
|A progression of events
that doesn’t change the
status or situation.
|Tell||If nothing tilts the core scenes of your book. Play them
out. Show your characters facing struggles, taking
action, meeting setbacks and recalibrating before
moving forward again toward their ursuit.
|Stakes||Tell||Tell readers what will happen if the characters are
unsuccessful. Be as specific as possible, calling attention
to deadlines when appropriate.
|Tell readers the details of a character’s hair and clothing,
but keep it relevant; the details you include should
demonstrate to readers something about the character’s
culture, class or individual style.
|Often, it’s best to just tell readers what your characters
have decided to do; however, context might provide you
unobtrusive ways to show them.