“Do not tell anyone about this, Viatrix. If anyone found out I was bringing in a foreigner to teach you, the guardians would probably try to take our jobs. Now get back to your cave before people start asking questions about why you were chosen. I can only imagine the riot it might incite if they find out why you were chosen.
Don’t disappoint us.
-Decimus, Livinius, Ausonius”
I just wrote this for my NaNoWriMo novel. I’m very proud of this bit. I briefly toyed with the notion of sharing everything involved with my MC’s orders for the special military group she’s been assigned to.
I’ve decided against it. Why?
Because her training includes training for her weaknesses, in addition to building on her military strengths, and I don’t want to give away the farm before I’ve had a chance to not only show what those weaknesses are, but how they play out and what the consequences of those weaknesses are. It’s all about building and growing my character organically, and the last thing, I feel, any writer should do is give away the farm before they’ve had a chance to explain why and how it’s a weakness.
Sure, it would make for some really awesome word padding, but I also know that when I go back to edit this draft, I’m going to forget to edit it out. Even if I make note to cut everything, I’ll forget it, because I sometimes like to be lazy in my editing sometimes or I overlook things, or I forget entirely why I need to edit something out.
Yes, I believe in a balance of showing and telling. Some things only need to be told about because they are non-essential, but still a part of the story. They can be summarized, but the important bits, the parts that inform the reader on crucial details of the character and the plot – those need to be shown. Whether it be a flashback, an object – the things that are going to be held in the balance by the end of the novel need to be in play throughout the entire novel. There’s nothing more frustrating to a reader than making a list of the character’s weaknesses in one scene or chapter, especially if their crucial to the plot. No one will care, at the end of the day, what the entirety of her orders entail. And they’ll have some idea of one thing it will include because I hinted at it when Viatrix went eavesdropping.
Readers want to see a character’s weaknesses and flaws played out in the story because that’s the kind of good stuff conflict can be made of. Does the character rise above their weaknesses, or do they fall farther from grace, or become undone because they are somehow incapable of surmounting their weaknesses? Readers are far more interested in these outcomes than being simply told a character has certain weaknesses.