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  1. #1
    Jo Mazz
    Guest

    Are memoir's often more telling?

    The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion ranked in the 30 thousands, on Amazon. Her book is about grieving the deaths of her husband and her daughter in the same year. Although it got bashed by the critics, it became a one woman play on Broadway. Vanessa Redgrave sat in a chair on stage and recited the entire book word for word. That was it!

    Didion is a professional writer who has been published multiple times, but in this book she was speaking to herself; for the most part.


    The Year of Magical Thinking is a memoir about grief, as is mine. Each time I go back to the edit work, I'm not sure if I can follow advice I received here regard the showing as opposed to the telling of my story.

    (Before this turns into a personal attack; No, I do not compare myself with Didion.)

    My point is, I need a better description of what you mean by, "showing."



  2. #2
    leslee
    Guest

    Re: Are memoir's often more telling?

    It's a good question, Jo.

    Obviously, anyone comparing their work to Joan Didion's (even in the privacy of their own living room) is going to feel disappointed on several levels.

    First, she could write "It was a dark and story night" and get it published. She has a fanbase and reputation that you do not have. I doubt that anyone posting here has that kind of loyal, lifelong reader.

    Second, she has a writing style that is unique, spare, effective. She has honed it over decades of work. I doubt that most people posting here have that kind of skill.

    When you look at how she presents the details of her experience, you could easily say she's telling, not showing. But as you read it, and you feel yourself in her shoes, in that room, in that moment, in that horrible reality, and you know she's showing. You are not watching from afar, you are in it with her. She's showing everything about it from her perspective, including small details that bring you closer to her experience.

    A memoir does, by its nature, tell to some extent. No way around it. But the writer's job in a memoir is to show every possible nuance - taste, smell, color, emotion - so the reader sees it as they saw it.

    I'll also tell you that Joan Didion relies upon her editor to assist her. At a writers seminar some years ago, she and her husband spoke and praised their editor as someone who knew how to cut the fat without diminishing the muscle. You can never underestimate good editing.

    But my guess that even in its most raw form, her writing is superb.

  3. #3
    Mya Bell
    Guest

    Re: Are memoir's often more telling?

    Telling:

    My father worked at the factory down the road. Every day at 5:30 he came home and I would meet him when I heard him at the door.


    Showing:

    At the click of the latch I rushed to the door where my father burst in, arms spread, and enveloped me in a monstrous bear hug. I drank in the familiar smells of flannel and machine oil as he hoisted me to his shoulder ...



    Books with too much telling are often overly concerned with the recounting of facts and tend to neglect action and emotion.

    Sometimes telling is appropriate—if it's the most efficient way to get an idea across. Too much telling, though, can be dry, almost essay-like. Storytelling needs to engage the reader's emotions and to paint a vivid picture of the story as it unfolds.

    --- Mya Bell

  4. #4
    stevenlabri ô¿ô
    Guest

    Re: Are memoir's often more telling?

    "Telling" means you haven’t involved the reader.

    "Showing" dramatizes the events of your plot.

    I haven't read Didion, but my guess is you are confusing the two. In some cases, the difference is subtle.

    Maybe John Oberon could expand.

  5. #5
    Patrick Edwards
    Guest

    Re: Are memoir's often more telling?

    <U>a link re: show vs. tell</U>
    <http://files.meetup.com/1030151/Showing%20versus%20Telling.pdf>

    Hey, Jo

    Instead of getting it from the folks on here, perhaps you could find a good book that'll help you <U>form</U> what it means to "show, not tell." I just googled "books about 'showing versus telling,' and came up with the above link and others.


  6. #6
    Jo Mazz
    Guest

    Re: Are memoir's often more telling?

    "Obviously, anyone comparing their work to Joan Didion's (even in the privacy of their own living room) is going to feel disappointed on several levels."



    I made it very clear that I don't compare myself to Joan Didion. I don't even like her writing a little bit. I used her book as an example.

    Thanks for the input.

    Jo

  7. #7
    Jo Mazz
    Guest

    Re: Are memoir's often more telling?

    By the way Leslee, if Joan Didion gets a free pass because she's Joan Didion, then I should have used another example. My error.

    Thanks Again!

    Jo

  8. #8
    Jo Mazz
    Guest

    Re: Are memoir's often more telling?

    "Too much telling, though, can be dry, almost essay-like. Storytelling needs to engage the reader's emotions and to paint a vivid picture of the story as it unfolds."

    --- Mya Bell

    Thank you Mya. I get that part. My story is telling but those who have read it tell me they cry when they read it. This is why I get confused, never sure if I am telling or showing or hitting something inside of them that they either experienced or fear.

    I wish I had not used Joan Didion's book as an example. Of course she is a seasoned writer. And that's why she isn't here. And, of course no one here has that kind of skill or they wouldn't be either.

    Thanks again,
    Jo

  9. #9
    Jo Mazz
    Guest

    Re: Are memoir's often more telling?

    Author: Patrick Edwards (63.240.53.---)
    Date: 02-11-09 16:35

    a link re: show vs. tell
    http://files.meetup.com/1030151/Show...%20Telling.pdf

    Hey, Jo

    Instead of getting it from the folks on here, perhaps you could find a good book that'll help you form what it means to "show, not tell." I just googled "books about 'showing versus telling,' and came up with the above link and others.



    Well, Thank YOU! I've been considering getting off this forum before I show and tell someone where to stick her borderline personality. Abuse in any form is unacceptable to me. If I knew this place was not a good place to get some writing tips, I would have gone pumpkin smashing. It would have been more productive.

    Thanks again,
    Jo :-)

  10. #10
    The Midnight Writer
    Guest

    Re: Are memoir's often more telling?

    read some memoirs and get a feel for the genre

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