Any writing course or lecture I have ever taken or seen at some point comes to the concept of "Show Don't Tell." It seems easy enough, display through your writing the emotions and events of your story rather than plainly stating these things as a matter of fact to the reader. What it amounts to is don't be boring and give your characters some depth.
The problem for me has always been how to put that advice into practice, the biggest challege of which is truly understanding what is meant by show don't tell. About a year or more ago I started to finally develop a means by which to conceptualize what is meant and have been trying to incorporate this into my writing.
The point I have come to is that you have to trust your characters and the ability of their words to convey emotions and in a number of cases movement, or at least expression in forms other than facial. If you read a lot of dialogue there are a number of points where a charcter says something and then either their mood (He said angrily), expression (she said frowning), or bodily movement (they said tensing their bodies) follows the dialogue. Why?
There may be a few reasons. The first is that the writer doesn't have faith in the dialogue to convey the emotions or actions of the character's body and demeanor or of the reader to infer from the dialogue either of these elements of the character's state of mind. And there is the key phrase to me--state of mind. What is the character thinking and feeling and how does the reader conjure an image of what this looks like?
So if I have a character that in my mind as I write is getting frustrated I can tell the reader this way, "Why," he asked getting frustrated and appearing stiff. Or I can show by putting more social cues in the dialogue, "Why are you being so obtuse with me?" This second bit of dialogue doesn't need the follow along explainer from the narrator (me) because I have shown through social cues in the dialogue the emotional state and demeanor of the character and I trust the reader to be able to conjure up all of that in their own mind without me having to essentially slap them in the face with it. Unless a person suffers from Asperger's (a form of autism where reading social cues is very difficult, among other things) people read social cues every day, all day and are quite adept at it. As a writer we just have to put the right cues in the dialogue, which will help fewer words carry more weight.
Anyway, that's my theory. If anyone else has any ideas I'd love to hear them.
Causes James Buchanan Supports
Expanding health care in the US, ending war as a viable tool of foreign policy, and issues related to social justice in general.