08 May, 2016

Some Thoughts on Useless Information

I'm bored and need to write, so here I am.

I've done a lot of reading, and I read before going to bed each night, so plowing through my stash is inevitable and why I'm still in the habit of browsing Amazon reviews.

One day, while reading reviews for potential new purchases, I came across something that made me laugh.

It also caught my attention because, apparently,

I too suck at Show v Tell

Great protagonists and antagonists. Great plot. Smooth action, solid connection between friends.  But...stop "telling" me and start "showing" me.
For example: "The pain eating through Dylan was like a chainsaw cutting through his gut."
How much more exciting it would've been if I'd experienced it WITH Dylan: The pain ate through Dylan's gut like an angry chainsaw. OR A chainsaw cut a swathe of pain through Dylan's gut.  Less use of passive words and phrases (phrasing) would catapult your already fabulous writing into the realm of unbelievable. Less "was."

It still makes me laugh, and not in a good/entertaining kind of way.

Awhile back, I was told by an 'editor' that my writing is bad, not worth publishing, and filled with tell v show, which any self-respecting editor would toss in the trash without bothering to read beyond the first few paragraphs.

She also said I lack fundamental knowledge of writing basics, which raised several red flags about her ability to judge my work at all.

The same 'editor' pointed out the fact that "...the internet is filled with useful information on how to show v tell" and that it would do me good to research the topic if I ever hope to get published.

Funny thing is, when I do this 'internet research', the above quoted review on the topic is the type of so-called helpful advice I get.

This, and tons more like it, is not helpful in the least.

Personification is preferred to Tell?


"The pain eating through Dylan was like a chainsaw cutting through his gut." is a bad sentence?

The reviewer doesn't like this sentence and refers to it as TELL, then offers her own example of SHOW preferred reading with:

"The pain ate through Dylan's gut like an angry chainsaw." OR  "A chainsaw cut a swathe of pain through Dylan's gut."

Chainsaws getting angry and Chainsaws cutting a swath is acceptable to this reader.

Inanimate objects coming to life and doing or feeling human emotion is preferable to "The pain eating through Dylan was like a chainsaw cutting through his gut."

Her final comment: "Less "was."" makes me think this is an editor, an editor-in-training, or a college student with zero 'education' to fall back on prior to the late 20th Century revamping of said laughable education system.

Helpful Advice?

"I could feel her hair curly locks swaying as her head tracked me."

HE could FEEL HER  hair swaying . . .

If I or anyone else is ever capable of 'feeling' the actions  of an inanimate object OR another, it would be worth writing to a scientific journal about or requesting an application for a Nobel Prize in Psychic Phenomenon.

And, a head being capable of tracking is preferred reading because it apparently 'shows' the reader something not only impossible but that I fail to see or understand.

"Tennis shoes and sandals stepped around me."

More personification and less clear, concise wording.

"Waiting for me to notice her."

I guess because he's got ESP and can read her mind at the tender age of ten.


I've read a ton in various genres as well as Romance and remain confident in my ability to write.

Far more confident than I am in the 20 or 30-something editor who claims I am lacking and need to find a new hobby.

I've read a ton of crap that receives more 5-star reviews than deserved, especially the ones written by "Best Sellers",  and I've read just as many novels that use a style similar to my own (while also employing Tell) that receive just as many 5-star reviews saying the reader enjoyed the story.

In college I was taught to avoid passive voice AND personification, or to at least be aware of both and be overly cautious about using either in a sentence to know that TELL isn't as bad as I'm being led to believe.

I'm also in my early 50s with 8 years of college under my belt, as many years employed as an educator, and with a far superior education in English, Literature, Language, and Linguistics than most people younger yet established in the business.

Which just means I rely on old-school knowledge, an abused copy of Strunk & White, and decades of reading material to gauge my own ability to write with at least a modicum of know-how and unique style.

And, since January, I've been working with several authors on BETA reads, but only one said she refused to read my work beyond the first few paragraphs due to the Tell issue.

The other four readers never said a word about it but did point out other issues I wasn't aware of until then, and THAT advice was actually helpful.

Bottom line: there is no useful, constructive advice about TELL that will help me to recognize it in my own work other than avoiding passive voice, which I already do.

Passive isn't the same as Past-Tense, but I'm aware of the fact that neither are a good idea in any body of work.

TELL is simply concise wording minus the flowery prose used to say the same thing.

And finally, if readers/editors prefer nonsense sentences, passive voice, and personification to Tell, then I'll simply have to remain on the Tell side of the fence until further notice.

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