Saturday, August 14, 2021

Show, Don't Tell

I left this post over on my FB group:


- If your character has to tell the reader who they are, you’ve lost the reader.
- Show who the characters are through actions. If handled correctly your reader will know them, and by doing so will draw them further into the story.

I thought I would embellish a little on this, and the reason I left that post.

I went to go see Jungle Cruise with Dwayne Johnson, and Emily Blunt. It was a roaring romp adventure yarn set during the First World War with a lot of action, and some pretty decent dialogue. I felt that Blunt's character, a plucky woman out to find a tree of life to help better mankind was solid, but the character, Lily Houghton was, what has been coined today as a "Mary Sue". She could do no wrong and everything she touched went her way. Since Miss Blunt is a damn fine actor I overlooked it, her chemistry with the Rock was fun and they made a pretty good duo.

On their adventure up the Amazon, Lily brought with her, her brother MacGregor Houghton. He was sort of comic relief, who brought extra luggage into the Amazon with him filled with extra clothes, foods, perfumes and the such. His performance was good, and by the way he portrayed the character, it didn't take much for me to understand he was a bit fairer than most men and it told me all I needed to know about MacGregor. But when he "came out" to Johnson's, Frank Wolff, the writer dropped the ball. Telling your viewer, or reader what the character is, in this case gay, you took me out of the story.

NOW. Before you start, I'm not homophobic. The character being gay isn't the point. How the writer had to take the time for him to say it rather than let the actions of the character tell me. That one scene destroyed the character for me in some degree.

As a writer it is your duty to draw the reader into your story. If you have to tell me your character is a chronic liar or a womanizer, or is afraid of his own shadow, or gay, you've dropped the ball in your storytelling. Who your character is, should be seen through their actions, not coming right out and saying, "I can't stop stealing, I'm a kleptomaniac." Show me why he or she is like that. some call it deep POV, I just call it, mastery of your art and it's something I try to do. Sometimes I succeed, and sometimes I fail, but I am aware of it in the back of my head. You'll hear this a lot as a writer "Show, don't tell."

As for Jungle Cruise, it's a fun movie, not great, but entertaining, and if you get a chance chesk it out.

Charles F. Millhouse is an independent writer and publisher. He has written 25 books in the science-fiction, action & adventure genres. His newest book: Captain Hawklin and the Invisible Enemy is the 9th book in the New Pulp adventure series. Find your copy 

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