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Thursday, September 10, 2009


I relate to Vulcans. For the record, though, Scotty was my favorite original Star Trek crew member.

I took a personality test in college. You know, the test where all Christians show up as schizophrenic because they talk to God and He answers? It told me I was judgmental.

Yes, some of you knew that, but it's not what you think.

In this case, judgmental is the opposite of intuitive. It means my information processes rely on observable facts instead of feelings. No, my conclusions are no better than anyone else's. No one action is perfectly representative of any person at any one time; therefore, my initial conclusions are as prone to error as someone else's snap judgment (in normal person talk that's to really know you I have to be around you a lot). I simply mean to say I don't have instincts about people: I have observations. Like a Vulcan.

I do not meet someone and feel they are kind or stupid or boring.

I meet someone and watch until they do something kind or stupid or boring. Then I label them.

I say this to illustrate the concept of show, don't tell.

Readers cannot be intuitive about your characters. They do not have sights, sounds, tone of voice or any of the other non-verbal cues they would normally have to get to know a real person. Readers have only what you the author choose to show them.

You can tell your reader your character is kind or stupid or boring. It's a little boring to do so, for you and the reader, but you can.

It is far more interesting to show the character doing something kind or stupid or boring. This encourages the reader to read on to see if his judgment is correct. If he sees more to confirm his conclusions, he will read on because he feels justified. If he sees new actions that contradict his conclusions, he is intrigued and wants to know more (unless your character is as inconsistent as a politician. That's never fun to read).

Readers are like Vulcans, too. They want to see your characters in action so they can put the right labels on them. When they get it right, they feel good about your story and you.

Here's the point. Don't presume on the kindness of your readers. Don't assume they're stupid. For goodness' sake, don't be boring. Show, don't tell. They'll thank you for it.

Unless they are Vulcans. Gratitude is illogical.

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