In our Zoom critique session this morning, we of Crème de la Crime got into a discussion of when to show and action or emotion and when to tell.
The oft-repeated direction is ‘show, don’t tell.’ Like any rule, particularly any rule in writing, it’s made to be broken.
Show is usually better. More action, and it calls on the reader’s imagination, which we authors hope draws the reader into the story.
As our member Karl pointed out, sometimes it takes a paragraph of show to carry out what a sentence of tell can do.
In the end, Greg rewrote the Serenity Prayer thusly:
God, grant me the focus to show when it's warranted,
the brevity to tell when appropriate,
and the wisdom the know the difference.
I want to step aside from the inexorable (I hope) progress toward publication of Fatal Score for today’s post.
I’m reading a fine book on the history of writing, The Written Word: The Power of Stories to Shape People, History and Civilization, by Martin Puchner. It has all sorts of fascinating facts, but what struck me today was his reminder that the great thinkers of the early age of literacy didn’t write things down. Socrates needed Plato; Jesus, the Disciples; Confucius and the Buddha, followers and students. In particular, Plato has Socrates complaining (Puchner’s words): “You couldn’t ask a piece of writing follow-up questions; words would be taken out of context in which they were spoken.” To hear is authentic; writing is a pale counterfeit of the thought behind the words to Socrates.
Interesting, then, that the standout growth segment of a slow-growing publishing market is audiobooks. Maybe what goes around does, indeed, come around.
Check out the first chapter of the Fatal Score audiobook here.