Direct versus indirect characterisation (tip 51) 1

Direct characterisation is when you tell the reader what a person is like (e.g. she was a kind woman); indirect characterisation is when you show the reader a character’s actions and leave them to make their own judgements (e.g. she always bought treats for the neighbourhood kids). As a general rule, you should tell us objective facts about people (e.g. he was 32; he sometimes spat at cats) but show opinions such as ‘he was nasty’ through the character’s actions.

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Tell, don’t show Reply

One simple rule can sort even a serious ‘show, don’t tell’ obsession: so long as you’re dealing with objective facts, tell us those facts as simply and clearly as possible. You only need to make an effort to show rather than tell when you’re conveying subjective ideas.

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