Show Vs Tell with Janice Lynn

   This week we have author Janice Lynn. She talks about Using Secondary Characters to Show Vs Tell. She also has a new book out, Wrapped Up in Christmas Hope.

Janice Lynn is a USA Today, Publishers Weekly, and Wall Street Journal Bestselling author. Janice writes sweet romances for Hallmark Publishing and writes contemporary Medical Romances for Harlequin. Her books have won numerous awards, including the National Readers' Choice Award, the Golden Quill for Best Short contemporary Romance and for Best First Book, Romantic Times Magazine's American Title, and the Holt Medallion Award of Merit. Janice lives in Tennessee with her Prince Charming, their seven kids, her vivid imagination, and an adorable Maltese named Halo who's the true princess of the house. In addition to writing romance, Janice is a nurse practitioner, a quilter, an exercise queen, a military mama and a member of and an avid supporter of the Quilts of Valor Foundation. Just kidding on the exercise queen.


For more information, please visit You can also connect with the author on social media at:


Using Secondary Characters to Show Vs. Tell

 I'd written 30+ books for Harlequin, Dorchester and a few smaller publishing houses when I sold to Hallmark Publishing in 2018. Writing for them has been a dream come true, but also a whole new experience as I've had to relearn how to write my stories. Although a bit intimidating at first, that wasn't a bad thing as continuing to improve one's craft should always be the goal.

With Hallmark Publishing, my stories have to be 'movie ready' even though they may never be made into a movie. What does that mean exactly? That I have to reveal  as much as I can via dialogue and action, rather than just staying inside my characters' heads. Let me be honest, that was difficult for me, because I like being in my characters' heads. I mean, it's real life, what each of us do when we encounter a situation. We think about it. We don't just blurt out our every thought...well, most of us don't and probably shouldn't. When reading a book, it's easy for the author to reveal what the characters' are thinking by giving us those thoughts. So, basically, I was TELLING my characters thoughts and emotions rather than SHOWING them.  Don't get me wrong, doing this to some degree is okay, but as much as possible, as writers, we should strive to show rather than tell. That's not been easy for me, because I really do like being in my characters' heads. So, I had to discover a new way to SHOW what my characters were thinking, feeling, experiencing inside. Secondary characters are a wonderful way of taking that internal dialogue and revealing it through vocalization. In Wrapped Up in Christmas Hope, I'm blessed to have a full cast of colorful secondary characters that are Pine Hill staples, but there are some new characters, too. John, a veteran who is a patient at the assisted living facility where my heroine works, is one of those new characters whom I fell in love with. While taking care of him, Morgan did the same.

"Actually, I really was thinking of Rosie," Morgan said.

John wasn't buying it.

"I was remembering how happy she was about Andrew picking up reindeer for her. She couldn't go on enough about him at church yesterday."

Of course, all the Butterflies had been spouting off wonderful things about Andrew. Did they think she didn't know how great he was? Him being wonderful wasn't the problem.

Well, it was the problem, in the sense that it made it impossible not to be attracted to him.

"A more accurate answer would have been that you were imagining Andrew," John corrected.

"Maybe," she admitted, surprising even herself with her honesty as she wrapped a blood pressure cuff around John's left arm.

John was quiet until she'd finished taking his reading, then he asked, "So what's the problem?"

Had the military trained him in mind reading, or what?

"I loved my husband."

"I never thought you didn't."

Morgan paused next to the valiant man's bed, taking in his Korean War Veteran's hat that he was rarely without, then heard herself say, "He died in a mountain climbing accident. Bad weather moved in much quicker than anticipated. They should have turned back, but Trey and a couple others didn't want to stop until they reached the summit." She paused, then sucked in a deep breath. "Three from their group didn't make it. They told me Trey died while trying to rescue the other two and..."

She couldn't finish. Why had she even started? This wasn't something she talked about with anyone. Not ever.

"I'm sorry for your loss, especially at such a young age, but this old mind of mine still isn't seeing why this means that you liking Andrew is a problem."

Morgan sighed. "I'm trying to learn my lesson about being attracted to men who are so reckless with their lives."

"Reckless?" John shook his head, studying her a moment, then adding, "Not sure recklessness has much to do with it. Sounds more to me that you're attracted to men who are willing to risk their lives to save others. It's an admirable trait."

Yeah, she supposed that was one way of looking at it. But try telling that to all the fears that kept her up at night.


So, in that passage, I used Morgan's conversation with John to reveal Morgan's backstory (secondary characters are a great way of doing that, as well) and to give insight to the struggle she's experiencing over her growing feelings for Andrew. To be 'movie-ready',  I couldn't have her just think all those things (tell), but had to have a scene that revealed them via action and/or dialogue (show).


In the next scene, my characters are at a Quilts of Valor sew-in. The scene I pulled is between Andrew (hero) and Morgan's five-year-old son.


"I didn't know you'd be here!" Greyson told him, not hiding his surprise.

"You think I'd miss out on being a part of something so special? I'm smarter than I look," he teased.

The kid's nose crinkled. "Sewing is for girls."

Andrew shook his head. "Not hardly, bud. It's a necessary life skill." Listen to him sounding like his grandma. "Plus, if you ever decided you wanted to be a smoke-jumper, you'd need to be able to sew."

Greyson gave him a confused look.

"Smokejumpers sew their own parachutes, harnesses--you name it. They always make their own. Base camps are set up with rooms for sewing equipment."

Greyson's eyes widened. "Really? You're sure?"


"Do you sew?"

Andrew nodded. "My grandma started teaching me when I was about your age."

Greyson regarded him thoughtfully. Then, a hopeful look in his eyes, he asked, "Will you teach me?"

Andrew felt something big. Gigantic. Colossal. It was incredible how humbled he felt at Greyson asking him to teach him to sew. It was as if he'd been granted some awesome privilege.

"As long as your mom is okay with it and you promise to listen closely. I don't want to have to make an emergency room run because of Frankenstein fingers." Andrew wiggled his fingers back and forth and made a funny face.

Giggling, Greyson imitated him. "I promise."

Man, he really liked this kid. "Then, let's go ask your mom."

Pride hit that he was hopefully going to teach Greyson a useful new skill while also opening the kid's eyes to the fact that he shouldn't be so quick to judge what was or wasn't considered manly. Who would have thought he'd be the one steering a kid in, hopefully, the right direction of seeing beyond preconceived ideas to accept new life experiences?

He kind of liked the feeling. A lot.


This scene served multiple SHOW purposes. One, I needed to reveal that Andrew could sew and well and why. I also wanted to SHOW that it was something he considered masculine even though our society doesn't always few sewing as a manly skill. And, I wanted to SHOW that Andrew's feelings toward Greyson were evolving into so much more than my never date a single mom hero had bargained for.

Wrapped Up in Christmas Hope is my third story with Hallmark Publishing.  My writing is much stronger because of the use of secondary characters to reveal details about the hero and heroine. Learning  to incorporate SHOW versus TELL is a skill I'm still working to improve with each story I write, whether that be for Hallmark or another publisher. When penning your next story, I challenge you to look for ways to use secondary characters to SHOW information about your hero and heroine, whether that be their backstory, their emotions, or what their thoughts/views/beliefs are, rather than falling back on Tell.

Wrapped Up in Christmas Hope

He’s willing to risk his life to save others.
Is she willing to risk her heart on him?

Morgan’s late husband was a daredevil…and now she’s a widowed single mom. All she wants now is to set up a stable life for herself and her son in the small town of Pine Hill, Kentucky.

Andrew’s a firefighter who thrives on the rush of saving others. His secret dream is to become a smokejumper and fight raging wildfires across the country. But it’ll mean leaving his hometown and the people who rely on him.

Morgan and Andrew are drawn together as they both volunteer to make quilts for veterans at the local quilt shop. Morgan’s son looks up to Andrew, and Morgan can’t help but notice how good Andrew is with him. Meanwhile, Andrew’s torn between his ambition and his growing attraction to Morgan. They both have choices to make about their future…and about each other.

Buy on:

Amazon Kindle                      Amazon Paperback

Amazon Aust                         Amazon UK


  1. That's a great way to show backstory rather than just tell it.

  2. Hi Kelly - what a wonderful guest ... Janice has explained everything perfectly about 'Showing' ... while her books sound great reads ... congratulations to you both - cheers Hilary

  3. A perfect technique to get the story told. I enjoyed this post. Thanks.

  4. This post resonates with me. What a great technique to show rather than tell. Wishing you much success with the new book, Janice.

  5. Thank you. I enjoyed writing it and thinking about how many ways I do this in my stories…and lots more times I should have used it. :)

  6. So great


  7. Using secondary characters to show sounds like a marvelous technique.

    Happy Tuesday!