Indirect Characterization And S.T.E.A.L.
STEAL is a mnemonic for (a few of) the different ways writers can show (/indirectly characterize) a character's character.
S = Speech. Show character through what a character says.
T = Thought. Show character through what a character thinks.
E = Effect. Show character through the effect a character has on other characters.
A = Action. Show character through what a character does.
L = Looks. Show character through how a character looks.
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Forgive me for stating the obvious, but strictly speaking one can't show anything in a written story (movies, yes; novels, no). It is, after all, written. Rather, we use words to paint pictures in our readers minds.
i. "Charlie slept," tells an audience, our readership, that a character named Charlie was sleeping.
ii. "Charlie, mouth agape, snored so loud the bed vibrated," implies that a character named Charlie was sleeping.
The second sentence paints a rudimentary picture where the first does not. The first tells, the second shows.Narrators and Narrative
Even though a novel isn't a visual medium we tend to see a story as we read it. Words are like colors, a sentence is like a brush-stroke, and a paragraph is like a picture.
When you read the sentences--(i) and (ii)--above, even though I didn't describe how old Charlie was, what color hair he had, whether he sprawled in bed or lay straight as a board with the covers pulled taught, what kind of bed it was (single, double, queen, king), what the room looked like, and so on, chances are that you, like me, had formed some sort of idea. Not a very precise one, perhaps, but enough to be getting along with.
in the formation of this mental picture-
(ii) gives us marginally more to work from than (i). Generally speaking, indirect characterization gives one's imagination more to work with, more of a guide, than direct characterization.
My question (and this brings me to the rabbit hole I feel down): Who gives us this guide? Who paints this picture?
Yes, of course, the writer does, but within the mechanics of the story it's the narrator. But what exactly, who exactly, is the narrator? Is he a character? A disembodied voice? A kind of meta-character? (A good article I read while researching this piece was: The Narrator, or Who are you? And why are you telling me this? by Lois Leveen.)The Narrator
The narrator usually isn't a character, though this depends on the point of view your story is told from.
If you're using the first person then your narrator and your viewpoint character will be one and the same. If you're using the third person (we're going to ignore the seldom used second person) then your narrator will probably not be a character.
"In third-person narrative, it is obvious that the narrator is merely an unspecified entity or uninvolved person that conveys the story and is not a character of any kind within the story being told." (Narrative Mode)
A narrator is, most often, an unspecified entity rather than an uninvolved person. Yes, I have read stories where the narrator tells of events that happened to people in his past and who takes someone other than himself as the viewpoint character (or it may turn out, at the end, that the narrator was, really, the viewpoint character). That said, what I'm interested in here are those stories in which the narrator is not a character. Question: Can The Narrator Have A Personality?
I'm talking about third-person narratives where the narrator is an unspecified entity and is not a character within the story.
I think the answer is "yes." Even though a narrator isn't a fictional person, they can still have a personality of their own. Lois Leveen writes:
"When you read, think about what clues you're given about the identity of the narrator. You may be able to pin down specific aspects of the narrator's identity (age, region, religion, race, gender, etc.) even if they are NOT explicitly stated in the text. For example, if the narrator says "Ethel put the pop in a sack and handed it to the customer," that narrator is not from the same region of the country as a person or character who would say "Ethel put the soda in a bag and handed it to the customer." If the narrator addresses older characters as Mr. or Mrs. and younger characters by first name, you may be able to gauge how old the narrator is — who are her/his elders, contemporaries, etc.?" (The Narrator, or Who are you? And why are you telling me this?)
For example, who is the narrator in Stephen King's delightfully meandering novel, "Under The Dome"? In this story, the narrator is--or seems to me to be--as close to a fully realized person (though not a character) as I've ever seen/read. For example, he speaks directly to the reader:This article is continued on my blog. Use the link, below, if you would like to continue reading. Cheers! #writing #writingtips #amwriting #narrator #showvstell