17 November, 2015

Show & Tell: Just a Game

Just when you think you've finally figured it out, along comes more information to blow such an assumption right out of the water.

In my case, it is the annoying and confusing Show vs. Tell issue in novel writing.

Part of the problem lies with myself, of course.

I've admitted this several times already. I just don't see it in other writing and hardly ever in my own. Which is likely due to the simple fact that I do not see an issue with telling or recognize the key words that are meant to red-flag a tell versus a show instance.

And, when I read things that suggest I consider my audience's viewpoint, pretend I'm holding a camera, or to rely on Mark Twain's "Don't Tell me what the Play is about, Show me what the Actors are Doing", it still doesn't help.

Not in the slightest.

Nothing seems to resonate with me and SHOW. Even when I think I get it, I end up not getting it and fall back on my style of writing. Which makes the guilt crop up to slow the writing process until doubt creeps in to make me think I'm spinning my wheels and getting nowhere.

Even more confusing are the article writers and the folks who follow them that claim I am right and the Show vs Tell guru's are wrong.

Yes, there are those who actually agree with me.

They see the issue as I do, or DON'T see it as I don't see it, and would even prefer to read the telling parts instead of a lot of flowery SHOW.

It isn't that I don't want to describe scenery, characters, and their environment -- but, I don't believe that this is my real problem with the SHOW thing. I feel confident about being able to describe places, people, things, and even events as they occur in a scene.

What I don't get, or think I get until I don't anymore, are the key words and phrases that take a body of work from SHOW back to TELL.

Like the feel/felt thing.

He felt awful about missing the concert after having promised his wife and child that he'd be there, but the decision to stay at the meeting and not get fired still seemed like the right thing to do in his mind.

WHAT, for heaven's sake?

And, how in the world is this written in a way that will confuse, bore, or annoy the reader?

People would rather read: Guilt crept up slowly as John dragged his heavy feet towards the darkened concert hall. His daughter's fourth-grade recital had ended forty-five minutes ago, but there was just no way he could have walked out in the middle of that meeting without the risk of being fired.

What I hear above is a lot of passive voice.

Which, by the way, I had ground out of me my second time around in College just a few years back. To the college professors in all of my English Lit, Language, and Linguistics classes, passive voice is the Devil.

And then along comes this gem that I saw on my Facebook feed just the other day:

Come on, now.


Personally, I read the left passage with far more ease and understanding than I did the right-side passage.

For me, the worst thing about this 'offering' is that it is being shown to young, impressionable minds as early as the Third grade. Having taught the Third grade for 8 years, I have to say that it would never have made it into my classroom.


And, the horrible grammar issues aside, I wasn't the only one who preferred to read the red, bad, TELL side of things:

Which, of course, leads me right back to square-one in the CONFUSION department.

The guru's are trying to convince me (and the world) that show is better than tell, and yet a surprising majority of the people who respond to such advice tend to disagree.

My old college professors still loom overhead shaking a finger at me every time I go near a passive voice instance, too.

So, which is it to be? Show be damned and onward ho! with Tell? Whisk away the Professor visions and revert to passive voice in order to show?

I believe in all of my stories and have great affinity towards all of my characters.

I miss those that I've sent down Published Lane and sometimes want to go back and re-read their story -- except I don't because I'm terrified of finding fault with my published work.

That being said, I also realize how silly that way of thinking is and that it is imperative for me to go back and write a 2nd Edition that sounds better, reads with more ease, and that isn't chock-full of grammar issues.

Like telling instead of showing.

Another article that I won't be citing here (to save that author's face) said that if I insist upon using Tell in my work, that I can expect for NO publisher in the known universe to EVER read my submissions.

In the article, she said she tosses them in the waste basket and moves on.


My immediate thought? Bitch! You're posting a help article on Show vs Tell and then TELLING ME you won't waste your time trying to help someone who doesn't get it?

So, fine.

I'm doomed to repeat the same damning mistake again and again with no help in sight and certainly no HOPE of ever seeing my work in print.

Meanwhile, I continue to attempt to write because it's what I do. I never claimed to be Pulitzer worthy and have no aspirations of watching my work appear on the silver screen -- but maybe some day.

Some day all of this will just click for me, and my next novel will be a shining example of SHOW that all the world will adore, and I'll have publishing houses clamoring for the chance to sign me to a book deal.

Maybe, SOME day.

For now, I continue to write and hope that I'm improving; that I'm recognizing TELL and rewording it so that the reader (and potential publishers) will like what I SHOW.

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