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Showing, not telling

How do you show rather than tell a character’s traits? Rochelle Siemienowicz, who’ll be leading First Draft: Memoir in a Year – Showing, Not Telling, has a writing workout to help you out. 

The people you write about in your memoir are your characters. This simple exercise is designed to interrogate your memory and your relationship with one of those key characters in your personal story.

First, choose an important person in your life. (Mothers are always a good place to start, but it could be a sibling, friend or lover.) Write a few paragraphs describing this person – their appearance, dominant personality traits and the nature of their relationship with you.

Next, using the same character, craft a scene that is heavy in dialogue, describing a significant encounter between the two of you. Try to convey similar information about this person through the things they say, and the interaction between you. Try to hear, or “channel”, their voice in your head. Perhaps you can only vaguely remember this particular conversation, but use your imagination to recreate it so it feels true to the person and events you remember. 

About Rochelle Siemienowicz

Rochelle Siemienowicz is a writer, editor, columnist and film critic who has been published widely, including in ‘The Age’, ‘Kill Your Darlings’ and ‘The Big Issue’. Her first book is ‘Fallen: a memoir about sex, religion and marrying too young’, published by Affirm Press.


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