You are here:

Writing Books/Novel Writing


Hi Cathy,

Thank you very much for the previous answer.

Sorry, if my following questions seem very beginner and silly:
1- "show,don't tell," is a well-known advice, but what does it exactly mean is not quite clear for me. Could you, please, explain it to me in your own words, and with a little bit paragraph as an example of 'showing, not telling?'

2- 'English' is not my native language, and I am writing my stories in a very clear and simple English- probably no reader will be in need of looking for a single word in may novel up in the dictionary. Does simplicity and clarity- very simplicity and clarity deform my work?

3- in my novel, I have got three to four heroes acting and ending like a protagonist. This is not accidental,I am doing it intentionally,since they all struggle together for survival.
The bottom line: Can I have more than one protagonist like in this case?

         Thank you very much in advance.

Hi, Ali!

Yes, you most certainly may have more than one protagonist. Thrillers especially use this technique. One of the masters was Tom Clancy. If you can find one of his books, you'll see how he makes each of his characters into believable people and how their paths cross throughout the book. The trick is making each person feel like a DIFFERENT person rather than just different words coming out of one mouth.

Showing is not a difficult concept once you understand it. You want the reader to be able to pretend THEY are the character---so the reader needs to be able to see, smell, touch and react with the world around them. For example:

Samir walked through the market, talking to his friends about memories of when they were children.

This is telling. The reader can't envision the world around them. It could be a market in a large city, or in a small village. A better way for the reader to "get inside" the character would be to expand and "show" Samir's visit (I'm condensing for space, but normally each speaker would have a separate paragraph):

The scent of limes and cinnamon cut through the dust in Samir's nose as he carefully stepped among the throng of people, glancing this way and that at tiny make-shift stalls offering fish, nuts, spices and clothing. "Do you remember when I used to sell limes here with my mother?" he asked his best friend Peter. "She always spread them out on a purple shawl because people would stop to look at the cloth." Peter laughed as he leapt aside to avoid running into a young girl, her basket of grain perched on her head like an elegant hat above a shining dark face. He had to raise his voiced to be heard above the crowd. "Yes, and then you would come forward and juggle the limes and make the tourists laugh." Samir shrugged. "Anything to get them to loosen their wallets. Otherwise, we wouldn't eat that night."

Do you see how you step into Samir's shoes? You can imagine the smells and the sounds and sights. It's not important to use complex words to get the point across. You just want to wrap them in the words, but simple words will work as well.

Does that help? Good luck!


Writing Books

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Cathy Clamp


I'm happy to answer questions about any aspect of writing novels, from the beginning kernel of an idea through completion. I can help with writing a query letter and synopsis to an agent or editor. I can explain publishing terminology and acronyms. I can also assist with questions about verifying the credentials of agents/publishers and how to proceed once you've been accepted for publication. I can teach the rules of formatting a manuscript, creating viable plots, characterization and flow in the following genres: romance, science fiction, fantasy, thrillers, suspense, horror, women's fiction, mainstream and mystery.


I'm a USA Today bestselling author of urban fantasy and paranormal romance for Tor/Forge Books. Along with a co-author, I've published fifteen novels (combination of mass market and trade softcover) since 2003, and have contracts for four more books through 2011.

Romance Writers of America, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Western Outdoor Writers, Horror Writers of America.

Tor/Forge Books, Western Reflections Publishing, BenBella Books, Running Press, Wild Child Publishing. Many others.

My educational background is limited to real life experience of publishing novels commercially for the past five years.

Awards and Honors
USA Today bestseller, Waldenbooks Mass Market Paperback Top 20 bestseller, Nielsen BookScan Top 20 bestseller, RT BOOKreviews Career Achievement Award winner, 2009, Book Buyers Best Award for Paranormal, Romantic Times Best Werewolf Novel, Write Touch Readers Award, EVVY Best Historical Chronicle Award, The Lories Best Paranormal. Many others.

©2016 All rights reserved.