Monday, 4 February 2013

A Guide To Writing Romance - Part Six

How do you show your characters’ traits and personality, without falling into the trap of telling your readers what you think they should know about them? The secret is to learn to reveal things to the reader without being prescriptive about it. It’s a subtle tool of the writing trade that can take a while to learn, but it’s very important to look at your writing critically to see whether you may be falling into the “telling” trap.

Read on to find out more from “The Guide To Writing Romance” online course:

Sixth Secret: Show, don’t tell.

Show us what your characters are like, don’t tell us. Don’t explain to us that she’s struggled out of poverty and that she’s wary of men. Show us in her overly scornful attitude to material wealth, and in her skittishness around the hero.

Don’t tell us he’s kind. Show us his kindness through what he says and does, and how other characters relate to him.

This is a powerful skill to develop, one of the most important ways to lift your manuscript above the slush pile. No-one wants to read reams and reams of exposition – in which you explain to your reader, at great length, what is going on and why.

Once you’ve developed this skill, you’ll be able to do all that, and more, without explaining it in tedious detail. You’ll quite naturally show your characters to us through the things they say (and choose not to say); through their actions and inactions and how other characters relate to them.

You can also tell a great deal about characters through the details that you choose to include. What are they wearing, for example, or what do they hang on their walls? Do they have a house full of animals, or is their kitchen obsessively neat?


Look around you right now, wherever you happen to be sitting. Which details of your environment would you, as writer, choose to highlight to show something about yourself or your setting?



  1. I'm loving these quick, impactful lessons.

  2. Glad you're enjoying them, Kathy! All About Writing run some great courses.