ljlee: where I work & play (workspace)
[personal profile] ljlee posting in [community profile] go_write
Note: I posted this last week but forgot to make it public. [/doofus] I've updated the date so it would show up in the timeline. Apologies for the mistake!

I'm listening to an audio lecture called Writing Great Fiction: Storytelling Tips and Techniques. I'm only three lectures in, but it's covering the bases pretty well. The second lecture was about the age-old admonishment of "Show, don't tell," and says that a) yes, showing is generally more evocative and immediate, but b) telling has its place as well. I remember quite a few occasions where editing to show instead of tell made my writing stronger, but I've gone in the other direction as well--simply summarizing an action that wasn't important instead of going into excruciating detail. What's your experience on this front? What are your thoughts on showing vs. telling? Is "show, don't tell" useful advice at all?

Also, I know this comm isn't generally about writing exercises but the end of Lecture 2 had a pretty interesting one if you want to try it: Describe a building, landscape, or object from the point of view of a parent whose child has just died--without mentioning the parent, child, or death.

Date: 2016-08-01 12:26 pm (UTC)
jae: (writinggecko)
From: [personal profile] jae
I've given this question a lot of thought in terms of how it should work for me specifically, actually. And what I've come up with is this: because the kind of fiction I write is aimed at putting the reader as inside the point-of-view character's head as immersively as possible, it always depends on what the character would really tend to be thinking at any given moment. So with a really self-aware character, you'd get a lot more "telling" than you would with someone who is in denial of their emotions and mental states, but even there, "showing" is usually going to be more representative of the inside of someone's head.


Date: 2016-08-02 05:47 pm (UTC)
lookingforoctober: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lookingforoctober
This doesn't appear to have been made public yet?

I think you have to pick what to show, and tell the rest.

I've been thinking about this a little because I'm currently read a book that's unexpectedly "show" about the plot. I.e. it's not spelling it out. (By plot I mean cause and effect links -- they are there, but...I mean, some books are much more explicit about this sort of thing.)

But showing is time consuming, and there's never going to be room to show everything, but like Jae mentioned, even the stuff that you're summarizing, you can show character through how you summarize, if it's through a character's perspective.

So I don't think there should ever be anything that's not showing at all, but there is only so much room, you have to pick.

(I guess I also don't think show vs. tell is quite the same distinction as immediate vs. summary.)

A lot of times this is going to be done by instinct, too, by what feels right, not necessarily by analyzing. Because analyzing is sort of like showing, there's only room for so much in a writer's process (IMO). (As an analytical person, this is something I sometimes have to actually remind myself of.)

Date: 2016-08-09 09:22 pm (UTC)
lookingforoctober: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lookingforoctober
Yeah, it's pretty clear if you've got a first person narrator that sometimes they're telling, I think? But if they're, for example, an unreliable narrator, then that's generally got to be shown, not told...

That might be the case, but I think it depends a lot of genre too. I think there are some modern, leisurely paced books that are less oriented towards immediacy, but the fast paced thriller types of books are just one thing after another. Too much of that, however much it's "showing" is actually rather boring to me, to tell you the truth...

At least, runs the risk of being. I picked up a book last night that's totally filled with action and nothing but action all I really want is for there to be less running around and more ... well, anything really.

But the kind of immediacy you get in a book is often different than the kind you get in a movie, because details work differently. Movies are naturally filled with details, because a camera captures everything visual in its line of sight, but books have to pick both which details and which level of details.

Date: 2016-08-07 05:44 pm (UTC)
inkdust: (Default)
From: [personal profile] inkdust
I think I see summary vs real-time action as more a question of pacing than show/tell. And priority - which actions are actually just stage dressing or (a common problem for me) play-by-play bits that honestly don't need to be mentioned at all. For me, show/tell awareness comes up most often in two ways - first, in description, where I make an effort to describe settings and situations via sentences where the character is interacting with them in some way and minimize "[noun] was [adjective]." Second, when it comes to character feelings, where I usually try to avoid emotion words and attempt to convey with body language/imagery/syntax instead (with mixed success). That's where I think a lot of critique of -ly adverbs shows up - "he said angrily" and "she shook her head sadly" - when that tone and feeling could come through more organically with action and dialogue choice.
I think those are the areas I notice with show/tell because those are the ones that tend to throw me off when I see them done poorly. I'm less bothered by straightforward action sentences than by a scene that feels wooden because the emotion or story mood was labeled for me instead of grown.


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