Iceberg inGreenland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Laurel Garver
We’ve all heard the advice “show, don’t tell,” but putting it into practice can be a challenge. Today I’d like to share one of my favorite techniques for showing how a character’s mind has been shaped–associations.Associations are “tip of the mind” thoughts that, like icebergs, show only a portion of the whole story. Most of the mass is hidden under the surface, whether it’s a mass of history or emotion. Associations are a huge part of character voice because they tell a tremendous amount about a person in just a few words.
Think of the word-association games psychotherapists use. When your character hears the word “home,” does he think “fried chicken,” “fear,” or “fantasy”? Any one of these answers gives a window into an intriguing story.
Associations can be a shorthand way of showing what kind of past experiences the character has gone through, what he values, and what forms of culture shape him. Associations show up in the way characters describe things, and especially how they make comparisons, such as similes and metaphors. Read more here.