July 12, 2006

The writer’s show

As I mentioned yesterday, I decided to write down, in my own words, what I learnt from "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers" so that the ideas become much better solidified in my own mind and also helps somebody else who might not be so clear about these core concepts. In that vein, let’s tackle the first one, "show, don’t tell".

This was a concept which used to frequently confuse me. When I said a character "looked confused", I’d think that I was showing it because I could immediately start picturing somebody looking confused :p However, I realized that I was getting entangled in semantics and that the concept of "show, don’t tell" was about not telling how somebody felt or looked or acted but rather, letting the reader draw a mental picture which leads them to conclude how the character feels by way of description. While it may sound like an advertisement, I have to add that I came to this realization only after reading "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers" :p

The technique to employ is rather easy and it makes sense too 🙂 Instead of spoon-feeding your reader every drop of information in long narrative passages where you basically describe a person, a situation or a society, you use conversation or interaction amongst a few people to bring out the same information but not directly. For instance, you can have a long passage about how wan and ill Katy looked and go into minute detail about the translucence of her skin, the way her body was racked by coughs etc. Or, you could have a couple of Katy’s friends talking in concern about Katy and how she hasn’t been looking too well lately. The latter technique might end up being slightly longer but it also gives you a much better sense of immediacy of being in the room with the friends while they discuss Katy and her health problems. Basically, it draws you into the story and that’s what we all want as writers, right? 🙂

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Posted by Fahim at 7:26 am  |  No Comments