Each choice in a story is an opportunity to tell us something about the characters, whether it’s introducing something new, reinforcing an established position, or highlighting some deviation from the norm. Chapter 10 of the Work In Progress contains a seemingly innocuous exchange between two characters:
‘Do you want the good news or the bad news?’ asks Dudley when he sees me approaching. He kicks himself back away from the computer terminal so that he can face me directly as I take the seat next to him.
The next sentence is one I thought long and hard about. What would Dave’s answer to this question tell us about him as a person – or at least about his current mood (Dave is the character in whose voice this 1st person present story is being told)?
Should Dave be optimistic or pessimistic here? Is he the kind of guy who likes to end on a positive note?
In the end I decided there was a way to squeeze even more ‘insight’ into the next sentence.
I open my mouth to answer but Dudley cuts me off. ‘We found some names. Twelve of them. But they’re a dead end.’
That tells us more about Dudley (and his relationship with Dave) than either answer Dave could give would tell us about him.