What Is Indirect Presentation?

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Indirect presentation is a writing technique related to characterization. Through indirect presentation, the reader learns about the character’s personality through his thoughts, words and actions, and through the way other characters react to him.

With indirect presentation, the writer builds the character through a series of events and interactions. This is commonly referred to as “show, don’t tell” writing. For example, rather than stating that a character is apprehensive about new things, the writer has another character invite him to a new restaurant and comment on his resistance to new things. In both instances the reader receives the same information.

Writers build their characters through indirect presentation by placing them in environments and situations that indicate something about them, such as their social status, moral composition or level of education. Through the environment and the character’s interaction with supporting characters, the reader learns about the character’s identity.

Indirect presentation is considered more interesting and more engaging for the reader than direct presentation, but it compromises brevity and can stall the plot. The writer must decide what is most important for her work. For example, during the climax of the story, it may be necessary to divulge an essential quality of a character. Direct presentation allows the action to continue without interruption.