Friday, May 25, 2012

Showing and Telling Revisited Part 2

When I revisited showing and telling, I mentioned how I finally understand the difference between showing and telling. This revelation came to me by reading two different friends' stories back to back. They were both romance novels, but their execution was completely different.

The first novel was very literary in style.  It explored certain ideas, like what love is and how many different ways it can be expressed. It used recurring symbols to designate people and cue the reader in on the relations, but never told us tat such was the case. (They were hints for us to pick up on.)

The second novel was not so much a romance story as it was a love story. It followed the old beaten path, never explored any ideas or concepts, never did anything daring. It was not godawful and I did not struggle to finish it, but I didn't feel any reward for having finished it.

Beyond the depth or philosophy of the stories, the style of them were vastly different. The first story focused mainly on the one protagonist, but we saw him in different ways. Sometimes he seemed a lunatic. Other times he seemed heroic. Then he would seem pathetic. We heard what his mind said, and we had some semblance of his rationale. Time was spent to describe scenes, to see and hear and smell an area or a person.

The second story sounded like a person describing a movie to me. The descriptions were of actions. One person did this or that, walked here or there, hugged him or her. And soooo much dialogue. People talked and talked and talked (and rarely had anything worthwhile to say). The overall impression was that I was an outsider looking in. I was seeing a screen where things happened, rather than being in the midst of the action. I saw other people doing stuff, but I never heard their mind's thoughts, so their reasoning always remained a mystery to me.

The worst part of the second story was how very much it reminded me of my own writing. Like, I could see myself making my own stories, falling into all of the same pitfalls. The best part of the experience, though, was that I realized that I can identify those pitfalls, which means I can now write better than that.

I'm very surprised that "show, don't tell" ended up being so deep and significant of a lesson and experience for me (and much like other lessons I disagreed with, it took me a very long time to realize it). I can't wait to find the next rule I think is stupid so I can grow from that one in a few years.

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