Write Away: Character Insight

The ability to withstand the temptation to over-explain, over-describe, over-attribute—pretty much over do it–when presenting character insight is a tricky challenge.

When I’m writing, I know if my character is sad, happy, mad, joyful, terrified, etc.–BUT I can’t just have her say, “I’m sad.”

Too easy. Too boring. Too fake.

I need to imply that she’s sad.

And it’s not simply done with suggestive adverbs or adjectives.

I must look to my character. She’s clearly responding to conflict. Is that conflict obvious or internal? What are her actions, reactions, choices? How can I involve setting, props,  dialogue, and other characters?

I must show her to my reader. I must unveil my character’s insight to my audience through her external actions, reactions, and choices, as long as the scene remains balanced.

And only extract her insight, through conversation or narration, when crucial to move the scene forward. Dialogue and narration are still best used for inference rather than explanation.

I must remember though, the overall story’s conflict must not be bogged down by over-explanation or unnecessary demonstration of insight for my character’s momentary conflict (scene conflict).

The revelation of a character’s insight through reader inference is both character development and fuel to the story’s conflict, moving the story forward ablaze with reader experience.

If I’ve over done it with too much intended inference, a reader could become confused and disengage any interest in what happens to my character or the main story.

If I’ve blatantly over-explained what my character is feeling and why she’s doing everything she does, my reader could become too bored and remember something better is on TV.


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