If I wrote about my husband, I could say he’s a thoughtful man who loves his kids. He’s kind, caring, and a thousand other adjectives in the list of words describing exceptional men. Such telling vocabulary might make a great social media post, one most likely to be ignored by followers who simply don’t care how many ways you can say, “Look how great my man is!”
What if I told you about a picture my daughter drew of her and her Daddy? She asked him to take it to work with him, so he kept it in his work van. When the van went to someone else, he brought the picture home and stuck it at his work bench where he’d be able to see it while doing projects. This story says more about my husband as a person than a bunch of generic adjectives.
Think about this when you’re creating a character. You can describe them a million ways, but it won’t mean much until you show them in action. Would you rather be told someone is helpful, or see him mending a neighbor’s mailbox? Do you want to read about a nice teacher, or see her working one on one with a student struggling in math? Is saying a guy was a pompous jerk enough, or is the point made better when describing how he smiled at his date while berating the waiter for forgetting a lemon wedge?
Actions speak louder than words, and stories need action to keep a reader’s interest. Don’t let your characters fall flat because you only showed them doing something during major plot points. Give them life. Show their personality. Leave the generic adjectives for social media posts.