Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Puzzling Over "Show Don't Tell"

So one of those often-heard writerly concepts, or sayings, or whatever you'd like to the call them, is "Show, Don't Tell". Something I, and probably everyone who has ever looked up writing advice, has seen a million one hundred and one times.

So I find it kind of amazing/terrifying when I read books actual published books that are pretty much all telling. (Although I guess there is a point to that; maybe some people need books that are all telling.)

Anyways, I was thinking the other day about puzzles.


This does relate to show-don't-tell, I promise. Just be patient.

Well, I was also thinking about this book I was reading called Scrawl by Mark Shulman (which is an excellent book, by the way). If you need an example of Show Don't Tell, this guy has got it down.

One example of Show Don't Tell that I found in Scrawl had to do with the main character's last name. I noticed that the author never wrote "My name is Tod Munn". Or: "In case you were wondering, Munn is my last name". He didn't do that because it wasn't necessary for him to do that. I, the reader, could figure out that Munn was Tod's last name all on my own.

This is because instead of telling me Munn was Tod's last name, Mark Shulman showed people saying Tod's last name, showed people using it in the context of a last name. And after awhile, it all comes together...

...like pieces in a puzzle. Once you've got a few pieces in place, you can see (either that or guess) the big picture. The point of Show Don't Tell is to realize that your readers are smart enough to do those kinds of puzzles.

It's important to have those puzzles in your writing, because puzzles are more interesting and fun and challenging. If you had in-detail, step-by-step, spell-it-out directions for a puzzle, it would take the purpose right out of making a puzzle.

Now, I am going to show you goodbye:

2 comments:

Hey there! I really treasure every comment... whether it just be a hello or a deeper thought. I love hearing your thoughts! :)

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