1. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Is this too telling of a sentence?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by peachalulu, Nov 14, 2012.

    I'm working on a short story - this is the opening sentence but I'm wondering
    if it's too telling -

    Leo tilted the mirror to avoid his reflection.

    Here's the alternative scene ( bedroom instead of bathroom ) which I thought might be too whimsical
    and dull ( talking about holes in socks ) -

    Leo pulls on a sock and his big toe comes popping out of a new hole. Other people might say damn, not Leo.
    He just looks at his toe, picks off a bit of fluff caught on the edge of the ragged nail before grabbing a Bic
    pen off his night stand. Then he draws a face on the pad of his big toe. A smiling face.
     
  2. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    A first sentence can be telling, and generally is, in order to grab a reader's attention. It's called a one-line hook. So, you're introduction can be either one, so you're not necessarily going wrong. The second paragraph works too.
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i'd definitely keep reading past the first, but wouldn't read past the first sentence of the second...
     
  4. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I agree. There is nothing wrong with "telling" sentences. You just don't want them to win by a landslide.

    BTW, I should note that when I was in first grade, we were taught to write "telling" sentences and "asking" sentences. One night, I had to write an asking sentence for homework. I did so, but my mother got called up to school by my livid first grade teacher, a nun. My asking sentence was: "Why did the man throw the clock out the window?"

    My mother couldn't understand why the nun was so upset. Neither could I. It was the beginning of a very long eight years.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Ah well. How time does fly...
     
  6. Crystal Parney
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    Crystal Parney Member

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    I like the first sentence best, like Maia. I wonder why does Leo tilt the mirror. Why doesn't he want to see his reflection??
     
  7. Yunirone
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    Yunirone New Member

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    It doesn't work. You've switched your tenses after the first sentence. Make it either all present tense or change the next paragraph to past. The first sentence itself is fine. Don't be afraid to get your feet wet.
     
  8. jottingsbyjim
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    jottingsbyjim New Member

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    Is the second paragraph an alternative to the first? I like the first sentence. Crystal is right.
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    There is plenty of room for both telling AND showing.

    But there are other principles as well. One is to never underestimate the power of the simple declarative sentence,

    Simple statements hum with power.
     
  10. MilesTro
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    MilesTro Active Member

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    The first sentence does sound like it is telling, but the other one seems to show how weird Leo is.
     
  11. FictionAsVeneer
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    FictionAsVeneer Member

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    Story tellers 'tell' stories. Just the way I see it and enjoy reading it. Both entries are fine. Just move forward with what works best for you. Tell the story.
     
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  12. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    The socks with holes - it was weird and dull at the same time. Like Maia, I wouldn't read much further in your second example. I really couldn't care less if he has holes in his socks, or if he cares that he has holes in his socks.

    Your first sentence is fine - I wanna know why he tilts his mirror. It implies something deep, and I wanna find out what it is. It is a significant action, a very telling action - as in, it reveals a lot by saying very little. That's a good thing.

    Whereas, what on earth am I meant to think about his reaction to drawing a smiley face on his big toe? It is also unattractive.
     
  13. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    I couldn't have said it better.
     
  14. JackElliott
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    JackElliott Senior Member

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    Both versions are fine, both interesting in different ways. The hook in the second example is in the very last line. The short declarative sentence, "A smiling face." Strange thing to do, makes me wonder if Leo is not 'all there'.

    Please do not get hung on up on this 'telling' nonsense. Focus, instead, on what your sentences are saying and communicating (i.e., the unstated meaning).
     
  15. EyezForYou
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    EyezForYou Active Member

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    I enjoyed the first sentence. That could also take place in a bedroom, in front of a wardrobe. And it doesn't mean a mirror will always will be in a bathroom.

    For the other beginning intro, I'd recommend you do more telling than showing. Usually in an opening story or chapter, telling works well because it draws the readers in and is evocative, instead of plain showing. Showing tends to confuse the readers if you don't provide the back story why the character's doing what she/he is doing. A combination of showing and telling should be worked into a paragraph, instead of pure showing.

    Personally, I'd just start it off by saying "Leo ripped his sock." It tells. Then you can follow it up with a showy description. Then another telling device.
     

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