Creative Writing Techniques: Show & Tell To Develop Plot Ideas & Character

Posted at 18:16pm on 25th June 2010

For aspiring authors, creative writing techniques may appear to be difficult to master. The main thing to remember is that the structure of a novel demands the creation of three dimensional characters, and that it is their actions and reactions which shape the plot ideas of the book. Analysis of a Bible story like that of Samson & Delilah demonstrates this admirably.

When you’re thinking about characterisation for your book, it’s tempting for the aspiring author to think in two dimensional forms: appearance and whether they are goodies or baddies. Yes, the physical attributes are important – even though they may not, necessarily, be stated. Sometimes, what you omit is as significant as what you include, and sometimes less is more. It gives your readers a chance to use their imaginations to fill in the blanks and, thus, make the character their own.


But when it comes to the psychological aspects of character, although similar restraints should be applied, the concept of good and bad needs to be fleshed out. As the author you need to know all there is to know about each character of your book. However, your readers should be allowed to make their own interpretation. Nevertheless, this does not mean that cardboard characters will suffice. People are rarely all good or all bad. As I’ve said in my last article, Develop Plot Ideas: A Combination of Negative Personality Traits, and throughout this series, the negative personality traits of one character are more effectively shown when set against the positive personality traits of another.

The point of the series is to show how the personalities of each character may come to life precisely because of the plot ideas that occur in your book. You, its author, do not choose the actions and reactions of each character; they do! And learning creative writing techniques like these is what will make your book a winner.


Those of you who have been following the series, will know that I have used a larger-than-life character from a Bible story to illustrate this point. In the relationship between Samson and Delilah, we see how their reaction to the action of the other highlights particular negative personality traits. We saw how that played out when Delilah was confronted with the dual temptation of power and vanity. Through show and tell – the way both she and Samson reacted to this situation – their characteristics were brought to life.

For instance, it became clear that Samson was a man who loved playing mind-games and taking risks. He found it exhilarating dealing with manipulative people like the Philistines and Delilah. He was attracted to dangerous situations the tides to the moon. You might get burnt. But the adrenalin rush would be worth it!

I reckon that, in Delilah, he saw a challenge that thrilled him. She was his mirror image! She wasn’t a submissive little mouse of a woman. She found it thrilling to play a cat-and-mouse game with him! She stood up to him. She nagged him to spill the beans about the secret of his strength. Especially now that she’d been offered a fortune to do so.


  • Straight Talk: First she simply asked him: Tell me how you can be tied up and subdued? Judges 16:6
  • Anger: When his answer failed to deliver him into the hands of his enemies, she became angry: You’ve made a fool of me, and lied to me. Judges 16:10
  • Manipulation: When that didn’t work, she became manipulative and whining: How can you say you love me when you keep secrets from me? Judges 16:15
  • Tears: Finally, she tried tears: You don’t really love me; you hate me. Judges 16:17
  • Cunning: When, in the end, he told her that he would lose all his strength if his hair was cut, she used cunning, and lulled him to sleep.

Straight talk; Anger; Manipulation; Tears; and Cunning: I’m ashamed to say that there have almost certainly been times in my life when I’ve used one or more of those methods to get my own way. Sadly, this is human nature at its least attractive. Which is why, in the structure of a novel, it makes for such great characterisation. But note that nowhere is the reader told that Delilah is angry, manipulative, tearful or cunning. As the narrative proceeds (depicted in italics above) show techniques are used to portray these negative personality traits.


Denouement: The conclusion of a novel requires an understanding of plot twist ideas which highlight the failures of the main character, before pulling all the storylines together into a final proving of theme.

Developing Plot Ideas To Show Characterisation
Creative Writing Techniques: Show & Tell To Develop Plot Ideas & Character

Related articles:

Creative Writing Techniques
The Drama Triangle & The Games People Play
Personality Test

If you’d like to receive regular reminders of new posts, click the button on the right, or read What It Means To Subscribe.

Although many of the articles on this website may be used freely where expressly stated, this one forms part of a series, and may not be reproduced without written permission from the author.

© Mel Menzies - All Rights Reserved

Your Comments:

13th July 2010
at 2:18am

These techniques of mastering writing seem to be difficult at
times but doing it continiously should do the trick.

Source: "">

Post a comment:

No HTML allowed. Web URLs will be auto-linked. Please stand by your comments; anonymous posting is permitted but not encouraged. Your email address will not be published, nor will it be distributed. Comments are moderated, and will not appear on this weblog until the editor has approved them. They may also be removed without notice or explanation.

Related Posts

Posts on related themes:

My Latest Book

Picked for a Purpose

Available in paperback from my books page
Buy Your Copy

Find the Real You...

Start Now
Take a FREE
Personality Test

BBC Radio Devon Interview

Listen to me chatting to Dave Fitzgerald about my latest release, Chosen, on BBC local radio.

Recently On Twitter

If you haven't seen David Attenborough's programme on Climate Change, please make the time to do so. Global defores…
tweeted by MelMenzies
on 20th April at 04:49
tweeted by MelMenzies
on 19th April at 17:18
What a truly fabulous programme Earth from Space is. Brought tears to my eyes seeing the beauty of creation. Someti…
tweeted by MelMenzies
on 19th April at 05:23
Follow Me on Twitter

Who's online?