on Writers Helping Writers:
Characters are the heart of a story, but what really draws readers in is their emotions. Only…showing them isn’t always easy, is it?
Like us in the real world, characters will struggle. Life is never all cherries and diamonds; in fact, it’s our writerly job to make sure reality fish-slaps our characters with painful life lessons! Big or small, these psychologically difficult moments will cause them to retreat and protect themselves emotionally, believing if they do so, it will prevent them from feeling exposed and hurt in the future.
And while we know “shielding” behavior is psychologically sound (we do it, too) and it means our characters will try to hide it when they feel vulnerable, this causes a real problem at the keyboard end of things. Why? Because no matter how hard a character is trying to hide or hold back their emotions, we writers must still show them. For readers to connect, they have to be part of that emotional experience.