This is the third in an ongoing series of StoryCrafting/StoryTelling posts I’m publishing for my own benefit; explaining something helps me determine if I’ve truly learned it or am simply parroting what others have offered. I learn my weak spots, what I need to study, et cetera.
Previous offerings include:
- Atmosphere is…
- Character is… (Part 1)
And note that I’ll update/upgrade/edit these posts as I learn more.
I ended Character is… (Part 1) with “The next in this series starts the exploration of the third character aspect, the techniques used to make the character real/alive to the reader.”
So far as I know, these techniques are:
- Exposition – the author explains (tells) the character to the reader. Most economical and least effective storytelling form. Improve it by sharing some sharp details, by having a character do the explaining (thereby revealing character as well as providing exposition).
- Description – Second most economical, second least effective. If you must provide a list of details, make the last one explosive, eye-catching, something highly contrasting with the previous, preferably bland, descriptive details.
- Action – most effective way to both show and demonstrate character.
- Shading – building a character by revealing contradictions about them.
- Gestures and Mannerisms – establish character by the little things they do, the non-conscious things they do, their habits.
- Settings, Tastes, Interests – what someone has in their environment, how someone interacts with their environment
- Opinions of Others – reveals both speaker and character.
- Dialogue – Character reveals themselves through their own words or through dialogue with another character.
- Thoughts – the author reveals character by sharing the character’s inner thinking about something.
- Narrative Voice – 1st person POV, the narrator talks to us and is revealed via their words and thoughts.
…a disaster waiting to happen. As stated above, exposition is the least effective storytelling form. It does have its uses. Quick transitions in time, space, or character are an example: “Jenny drove home from her office.” “Karl glanced out the window and waited for his stop.” “The Carsons walked out as the Davidsons entered.”
In all three cases, the events aren’t as important as the fact that something’s changing; Jenny’s environment is changing from office to home, Karl’s waiting for the next thing to happen. The players are changing from one group to another (Carsons to Davidsons). All are single lines that provide little information other than letting the reader catch their breath before the next big thing occurs.
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