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  1. #31
    Bob Kellogg
    Guest

    Another point.

    We have to use narrative summary, or our books would be twenty times as long (See Kaz's post). Part of our job in storytelling is to let the reader know what's important. If it's not important, leave it out. The most immportant elements of the story shoud get the most attention from the writer--the most detail, perhaps.

    But another reason that people will critique with an order to 'show, don't tell'is when we describe a feeling with a kind of code word. Disgust, relief, infatuation, and similar words can be placeholders for something true and moving.

    But like I said, depends on its importance.

    Boris smoldered with hate.

    If it's important that we understand Boris, we'll go into more detail, describing what Boris does (or supresses) so we'll experience his hate. If all we need to know is that Boris is smoldering and it doesn't matter why, the shortcut sentence is enough.

    We just have to understand that codes like hate, love, and fear can give the reader mixed messages--indistinct at best and at worst, not what you intended at all. That's when showuing can be better than telling.

    When we want to express something that can't be shown, we tell, and hope we tell it well. That, I believe, is what Jack was talking about.

    It's a matter of understanding the craft of communication, and applying it to suit our own purposes.

    Bob K.



  2. #32
    Jack Hinks
    Guest

    Re: Another point.

    Not to put too fine a point on it, though, Liz --

    I do still think that stuff's malarkey.

    Don't curse me out this time.

    -- JH

  3. #33
    Jack Hinks
    Guest

    Re: Another point.

    Bob, incidentally (and as always), expresses the usefulness and limitations of the concept pretty darned well.

    When used as a defense against the facile and the cheap as he prescribes, I've got to say I'm all for it.

    It's just not anywhere near a "basic writing principle." Treating it as if it were is what I object to.

    Good on yer, Bob.

    -- JH

  4. #34
    Liz
    Guest

    Re: Another point.

    I'll try to refrain.

    {buries hatchet}

    -- LS

  5. #35
    The Late Mitchell Warren
    Guest

    Re: Another point.

    I suppose it's the difference between a good story teller (talent which comes naturally; the most brilliant writers of the past) and just a good writer. (A well read learner who follows the trends and the rules, and thus will never transcend any set contemporary standard.

  6. #36
    Pamela
    Guest

    Re: sometimes it doesn't matter

    This afternoon I read through 13 pages of telling. Non-stop. And all in italic to boot. Prologue to a Pullizter Prize winning book, and natoinal best-seller. Empire Falls by Richard Russo. If you don't know what telling is, read the prologue. That is telling. I almost didn't make it through, even though I've been told this is a great book by people whose judgement I respect.

    My take on the show versus tell thing is that mostly people object to telling that is overly simplistic. Jane was sad. This tells, but more importantly, it tells us almost nothing. Especially almost nothing interesting. Jane flung herself on the couch and began sobbing into the armrest, is, to a certain extent telling too -- it tells what happened, but it "tells" us a lot of other things as well -- the intensity of her feelings, the quality of her crying (one can have very intense feelings and still smother one's tears), and paints a very clear picture of Jane on the couch. The complexity of the second sentence and the variety of images/information we can draw from it makes it more interesting and engaging. I think it matters little if we show and tell, so long a what we show and tell is interesting and complex.

    Pamela

  7. #37
    Glen T. Brock
    Guest

    Re:Show don't tell!

    Jack,

    I used to know a stripper that used that very same technique. She showed but she didn't tell.

    This is like a vortex in a bathtub. A storyteller tells a story. Action and reaction--conflict and resolution--that sort of thing. Sometimes telling is more important than showing. A good example is in Shakespeare, when the action occurs off stage. But a good writer will get his story told no matter what technique he has to employ. This is just like that vortex in a bathtub--looking more important than it really is.

    Glen T. Brock

  8. #38
    The Late Mitchell Warren
    Guest

    Re:Show don't tell!

    Tell me more about the stripper.

  9. #39
    Glen T. Brock
    Guest

    Re:Show don't tell!

    Mitchell,

    You're too late. I've already been dumped off once.

    Ah, but she could make em dance in the shimmering footlights so!

    Glen T. Brock

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