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This is me and my confusion ha ha

LarikaLarika Bibliophile
edited October 2018 in General Discussions
[Referring to passage by Alice Munro] Finally, "the passage contradicts a form of bad advice often given young writers -- namely, that the job of the author is to show, not tell. Needless to say, many great novelists combine "dramatic" showing with long sections of the flat-out authorial narration that is, I guess, what is meant by telling. And the warning against telling leads to a confusion that causes novice writers to think that everything should be acted out -- don't tell us a character is happy, show us how she screams "yay" and jumps up and down for joy -- when in fact the responsibility of showing should be assumed by the energetic and specific use of language.” 
― Francine Prose, Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them

The above quote refers to me! (Except for the "young") I consider myself a novice (even though I've been writing for a few years) and I'm still confused by "show not tell." Our writing group produced a book and all the money we made went to charity. My story was finally accepted after I'd revised it and "shown" not "told." Practically the whole short tale was written in dialogue. I wanted to "describe" the deserted garden and the abandoned, old house, but I was advised that that was "telling." (I could have painted it easily.) 

Comments

  • And it's 'remarkable' how many famous writers do not use this Show method, and some not even the Tell method, and it has not had any effect on the sales of their books, or the glowing reviews and awards.

    It's not always wise to analyse one's own works because it's a bit like, for example, taking apart a clock (a clockwork one!) to see how it works, then realising you have no idea how to put it back together, and even if you manage, it no longer works. It's a bit like a person that's been doing a trade for so long they do it habitually, and when asked how they do it, they are not too sure! and when they start to think how they do it they can be so flummoxed they almost lose the skill.

    What is important is if your reader gets from the words what you hoped to get across. If the words create the same image in their minds that you had in yours when you wrote it. That it is entertaining, also, of course.

    What next? What books 'say'? "I see you are reading, what does it say?"    "Well it says nothing, it's not an audiobook, that's why I'm having to read it."   :)

  • Ok this might come across as complete literary blasphemy, but I have a thought. Consider that most readers now have a super computer always within arms reach. And while they are reading, they can  instantly summon multiple images of almost anything already in existence. Is it worth spending two pages trying to describe the exterior of Edinburgh Castle, or the tail fins of a '59 Caddy? What if smart phones allow any piece of literature to become instantly illustrated? Within reason of course, I know this doesn't help fantasy or sci fi. Maybe 'SHOW" isn't quite as important as it once was?
    Tim Reinholt Author of Pow, a ski bum heist adventure
  • Ok this might come across as complete literary blasphemy, but I have a thought. Consider that most readers now have a super computer always within arms reach. And while they are reading, they can  instantly summon multiple images of almost anything already in existence. Is it worth spending two pages trying to describe the exterior of Edinburgh Castle, or the tail fins of a '59 Caddy?

    I write SF, so there'd be no need for such descriptions (not often anyway.) But then again I have never been to Edinburgh, and I once read a fantasy book that described the inside of the castle because some of the action took place there, which I found interesting. Then again, some people may think that Edinburgh Castle is made up anyway.

    I have no idea what a 1959 Cadillac looks like off-hand so a short description would be interesting, only if relevant.

     What if smart phones allow any piece of literature to become instantly illustrated? Within reason of course,

    You mean like an illustrated book?! A graphic novel maybe? Why has no one else thought of that?!  :)

     I know this doesn't help fantasy or sci fi. Maybe 'SHOW" isn't quite as important as it once was?

    So you are suggesting that whenever people come to a section of text that is not as descriptive as it needs to be, that people should turn on their PC, or pick up their smartphone or tablet to look up what the writer means? That would be very time consuming and annoying. That reminds me of when I was a very young kid, keep picking up a dictionary to see what some words mean. But that was not the fault of the writer, I often read books 'above' my age group.

  • Oh, Kevin you have an incredible knack for turning conversations into arguments.
    I'm not pro or con, I just think it's already happening. Maybe not with Baby Boomers, but with younger readers who don't actually find it "very time consuming" to find images and information online.
    Can you honestly say that you have never read something in a book that was intriguing enough to warrant looking at a map of the area or viewing different images, or reading a quick wiki biography of someone mentioned? As an omniscient being, you probably never have, but I know other mortals like myself who frequently do.
    And while you may have won this argument, I don't think it's going to stop some people from reading with a smart phone nearby





    Tim Reinholt Author of Pow, a ski bum heist adventure
  • Oh, Kevin you have an incredible knack for turning conversations into arguments.

    They are not arguments at all, just my observations and opinions in reply to yours. We can all have them.


    I'm not pro or con, I just think it's already happening. Maybe not with Baby Boomers, but with younger readers who don't actually find it "very time consuming" to find images and information online.

    It is, when engrossed in fiction, regardless of age. BTW, what's a Baby Boomer if not a child?


    Can you honestly say that you have never read something in a book that was intriguing enough to warrant looking at a map of the area or viewing different images,

    I can honestly say that, yes, I expect the book to tell me, not to have a 'Want To Know More? Click the RED button.'

     or reading a quick wiki biography of someone mentioned?

    In fiction? But no, perhaps when watching TV and I recognise a face but cannot recall who it is, or where I have seen them before, then I may pause it and poke at my tablet. But I may already spend time using my devices to learn things, when I am not reading fiction.

     As an omniscient being, you probably never have,

    Possibly many writers hope that their readers already know some things they describe, or they know it's not that important to the actual story.

     but I know other mortals like myself who frequently do.

    Perhaps they don't know enough already then? But are we talking about fictional works or factual?


    And while you may have won this argument,

    I have?!! It's just my opinion, and it's a shame that no one else has posted theirs.

     I don't think it's going to stop some people from reading with a smart phone nearby

    Well, no, the idea of a Smartphone is that they are portable, but most people are using them to send/reply to messages, or use twitter, or Facebook, or to look at cats, or playing candycrush or gambling, perhaps playing Farcry or LPS games. Far too many people seem to have a smartphone Superglued to their hand nowadays, and I mean people of all ages, and few are using them to educate themselves, unless it's about celebrity gossip. Dismally few are reading books on them, or have a printed book open by them.

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