In Section 1, you discovered that the key to becoming an effective self-editor was to start to see the book from a more structural viewpoint. In Section 2, we focused on Classical Design and the importance of the three act structure. In Section 3, we examined the elements of novel writing and considered viewpoint, voice, dialogue and description.

In this section, we take a look at two key aspects of writing technique: show, don’t tell and characterization. Together, these two elements combine to lift a novel to the next level. They also represent two of the most common elements that an editor will need to address when looking to improve a novel.

The aim of this section is for you to gain a deeper knowledge of showing, not telling and characterization. With this knowledge, you will be able to improve your own writing, as well as edit written manuscripts and provide valuable and significant feedback.

The importance of these two techniques can’t be overstated when it comes to both writing and editing. Showing, not telling is, by far, the most common problem that faces a professional editor and it is something that every writer needs to understand and use. As for characterization, this is a tool that can be used to create holistic, realistic and memorable characters.

Show, Don’t Tell

I am sure you’ve heard and read a lot about showing, not telling. In many ways, it has become the mantra of the modern Internet blogger. The problem is that a plethora of ill-informed and patronizing articles have turned many writers off the real message.

In this section, you’ll discover what is meant by ‘showing, not telling’. You will find out why you should be bothered by the concept. You’ll also learn how to stop showing in description, narrative summary and speech. Finally, you’ll discover how to edit a manuscript that is showing, not telling.


The process of characterization is simply creating engaging and realistic characters. I say ‘simply’ but it is one of the most difficult challenges that writers face. To create engaging characters a writer must write in a way that reflects the ‘truthful’ manner in which a person would react.

In this section. you’ll learn more about characterization, including the principle behind writing realistic characters, the importance of telling not showing and how to elicit emotion. You’ll find out that you need to address characterization in three areas – inner voice, external voice and action. You’ll also discover how to self-edit with the aim to improving your own characterization skills.