Many writers struggle at times with the difference between showing and telling. It’s so much easier to tell the reader about your character than to show your character in action and let the reader draw their own conclusions.
Here’s a neat approach to help you avoid that show & tell trap.
- Glibness/superficial charm
- Grandiose sense of self-worth
- Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom
- Pathological lying
- Lack of remorse/guilt
- Shallow affect
- Callous/lack of empathy
- Parasitic lifestyle
- Poor behavioral controls
- Promiscuous sexual behavior
- Early behavior problems
- Lack of realistic long-term goals
- Failure to accept responsibility for own actions
- Many short-term marital relationships
- Juvenile delinquency
- Revocation of conditional release
- Criminal versatility
Now – before you start rushing off and analyzing your friends, partners and co-workers, tempting as that may be – take a moment and think about this list in terms of writing. This is a list of traits.
The writer who wants to create a psychopathic character needs to show some of these traits in action. In The Psychopath Test, Jon Ronson interviews people and then afterwards examines their actions, statements and behavior in the context of the list. As writers we can take this list and turn that process on its head.
Here’s the prompt. Select some – or all – of the characteristics of a psychopath. For each one, note down something a person might do or say to show that characteristic.
Use your list to create a scene.