When drafting a character, an important element to remember to add is emotion. Emotion in a character will bring the character to life and fill the pages with substance. Creating a three dimensional character with the use of emotion is the difference between having a story fall flat or a story that succeeds.
How can one put emotion into a character without it seeming to be placed there?
There is where the adage of *Show, don’t tell* comes into play. What this means is that you want to be able to present your characters in such a way as they seem natural in their environment. Showing surprise, happiness, fear, wonderment, etc., are much better than telling the reader what the character is feeling or experiencing. As stated in our earlier post about characters, the emotion is what brings the character to life for the reader.
So how exactly can you show the emotion that a character is feeling to the reader without actually telling the reader what the character is feeling? This works by being able to tap into the readers’ humanity, so to speak. You base your writing off of how you think the reader will react to what you write. The easiest way to accomplish this is to base it off of yourself. After all, what you write comes from within and the characters that you present are apart of you whether they are good or bad. An example of showing vs telling follows.
Jake felt like he was on top of the world today. The sun was shining, his career was doing extraordinarily well, his love life was beyond imaging and good prospects were forecast for the future.
In the above example, you know that Jake felt good because I told you he did. So how to show you how Jake felt is what we want to do now.
Jake bubbled with joy. Nothing could remove him from his mountain. His energy was bursting forth and he stood above all obstacles. The sunshine was warm and welcoming as it showered about him. The gratitude from his boss was another mark for him in that he was rising within his company. When he was with his wife, he was complete, two souls that were one. All of his dreams were becoming reality, his future was like a shining star twinkling in the night.
As can be seen from these two example, Jake is either two dimensional or three dimensional. The reader will be more engaged in the second example due to the liveliness of the character.