Show not tell, Archers style

Long-playing radio soap The Archers is presently running a powerful storyline on domestic abuse. Some scenes are far from subtle and get grown women (at least the ones I know) shouting at their radios incensed by Kate’s dim devotion to the suave and sinister, demonic dairyman Rob. On other occasions the story is moved forwards merely be the observations of others, disjointed words, casual references – and (in one particularly chilling scene) quiet sobs and an unanswered phone.

As in real life, we – the listeners – never have the full picture. We dip in and out of conversations, we eavesdrop, we hear whispers and gossip – but the full horror is left entirely to speculation. We never get inside Kate’s head (or, indeed, anyone else’s); we will only ever hear what the writers allow us to hear through her interactions with others. (After all, few people outside Shakespearean dramas – or House of Cards – actually do the audience the favour of explaining themselves aloud.)

I seem to have fallen into this style with my novel – so it’s very encouraging to find this is a valid way of telling a story. I try to describe people, places, and events exclusively from my heroine’s perspective but (usually) without direct comment from her. I let her do what we do in real life; feel and react – and then quietly store that detail away for future reference.

My biggest risk is that I never manage to weave it all together so my story remains a tangle of ill thought-out loose ends and everybody gets bored and moves on.

About Hannah

Author of literary historical fiction set in the First World War. Revising my first book, writing the next, seeking representation. Mountaineer, gardener, traveller, off-road runner. Africa, modern history, coffee, roses, films, book and unrealistic romance. NHS midwife in a former life.
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