(BLOG ETHIC NOTE: You might notice I use "they" instead of "he" or "she" in many of my posts. This is an effort to remain gender-neutral and a choice of craft I implemented during linguistics courses at Ball State University,)
The reason show is more of focus than tell in a story is all due to the way we perceive information as human beings. Interestingly enough, Amanda Davis, a Byrn Mwar student, wrote, "It's become clear to me that humans' primary sight organ is our brain."
Even the recent democratic speech made by Bill Clinton tried to apply this notion. Rather than making promises to change America, he spent time getting the audience to visualize the democratic plan step-by-step with actual facts and practical explanation. Whether you side with democrats isn't relevant in order to see the way Clinton came off more emphatic and believable than any of the other speakers for any side of the presidential race.
If you apply this theory to the page, you'll quickly realize why certain books entertain and inform better than others. Sure words can be written on the page that tell the story. With a little more craft, a great description can provide an excellent visualization of geography and set the tone. But what's more effective, is constructing a story in a such a way that the reader can relate to multiple layers of the story, especially a character's actions - what a character does without much explanation.
In No-Injury Policy, I strive to showcase stories that rely more on character interaction than anything else. I haven't neglected eloquent description, and sometimes a little tell sets the scene like the beginning to a theater production. But if a character does something, then it's important that they don't need to say why. It should be obvious. And as for the things said character does, readers should be able to think, "Yeah, I thought about doing something like that before."
The general concept is to set characters in pressing social constructs (that nature of trangressive fiction) and have them live out the reactions we all wished we could live out. One example is the story "Sleep" from No-Injury Policy. In this story, a character named Adam Hope is a recent graduate/writer (how creative of me, right?) who is pressed by the norm of finding a "real" job. In short, he loses a lot of sleep while trying. We've all been in situations during which stress kept us wide awake through the night.
However, Hope is sickened by the expectation of having a great career right off the bat. The thing is, he's not alone. The rest of Long Brooke can't sleep, and soon they'll all going to show society just what they think. The idea of demonstrating our angers and frustrations to someone or something pressing is a dream for many of us; therefore I hope many of you will enjoy the tale. Admittedly, the story's a little off-the-wall.
It's this kind of retaliation that I think makes a good story. A character is in an extreme version of everyday life, faced with crushing social constructs, they want to break free, show people what they think of their norms, and pursue a vocation they truly enjoy. In most cases, a character who acts out the way we all think about doing is always the protagonist in our eyes.
Occasionally the bad buy will make us cheer on the inside, but that doesn't mean the character is the antagonist. He could simply be the anti-hero, or he could be the antagonist in the literal sense: The opposing force in front of a hero's goals. Then again, every protagonist is someone else's antagonist.
The same argument could be made for recent college graduates. You spend four years deep in ideology and practice, but once there's a taste of the real world, things change. Some of us live out our dreams. Some of us keep trying. And the weaker of us simply gives in. As the butler from "No-Injury Policy" says, "You're too young to understand now. You might say you would't do things just for money, but when you're an adult you'll be surprised at what you won't do for money."
Of course, the longer you live, the more you'll become for which you'll become responsible. In this sense, priorities need to be made in order to fulfill those responsibilities, but the dream still lives on somewhere. And this is where a good story comes in: It can at least allow us to imagine the things we always wanted to do. It only makes sense a good story can relate to us in such a manner.
While I aim to have my characters live out our best and worst ideas, it's important to note they are all "manning up." This is the difference between a great speaker and mumbler. It's the difference between a good character and a flat one. And it's crucial to real-life. In college, you learn all the things that are important to you. In some cases, you might even have a strong sense ethics. Unless you act out what you know, the information can dry out and render itself useless.
If you wish the world would operate a different way - a better way - practice that method in front of it in a manner is relatable to many, one which they can support. You might just be the catalyst for revolution.
You Might Also Enjoy:
Life After College: Is It Your Fault?
About: Learning Styles
Getting Lost in New York City
All Things Beautiful - No-Injury Policy Excerpt, IV
Ever Felt Like a Loser? It's Because You're A Winner
Subjective Job Hunting
Fear, focus, and the future. C.M. Humphries talks about writing, horror, and whatever.