In the last post I took a look at making it clear what was behind a character’s actions and suggested that in most cases it's preferable to just tell the reader what's going on up front.
In this follow up I will attempt to clarify how and when to use telling to get the most out of a scene. As with any technique, a lot still depends on how well you execute it, but knowing the advantages and disadvantages should help.
For the purposes of this, the example I’ll be using will be a man breaking into a house. There are three ways to do this in terms of character motivation.
1. I don’t tell you why he’s breaking into the house and either let you figure it out for yourself or reveal his reasons after the fact.
2. I show you in a previous scene why he needs to get into this house.
3. I tell you his reasons as he breaks in or just before.